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Found 52 results

  1. Rod_3rich

    Prologue

    The villa of Colonel Achilles Graves was in an unusual state of uproar. At least a dozen members of the Anatolian police were spread around the villa’s front porch with their automobiles parked all over the snow covered yard. The officers, thickly clad in large woolen overcoats, were busy taking statements from the guests, while a small group of officers were leading away three of the guests. Various emotions were displayed on their faces, from miserable to murderous rage. Their paws were cuffed on their backs as they were escorted towards the awaiting automobiles. One of them, a tiger, had to be restrained by three of the officers as he kept struggling against their grip. The feline was heavily bruised, bloodied, and had lots of cuts on his face. He snarled and tried to fight his way out twice and nearly succeeded until a boar officer went in and helped his comrades to shove the offending tiger into the police van. The master of the house, the distinguished Colonel Achilles Graves, looked weary as he answered a few questions from the tall and shrewd labrador. The golden bands on his uniform indicated that the canine was the lead inspector. There was an air of relief in the black panther’s features as he answered yet another question. “...yes, exactly. If it wasn’t for detective Cross’ quick action, that tiger would have succeeded in his attempt to stab me.” He answered. “I see.” The inspector nodded, hastily scribbling the colonel’s words on a notebook. He hummed as he thought his next question. “What can you say for Mr. Nikolai Vasilyev? I understand he’s your guest. However, he wasn’t on your guest list.” “Oh, young Vasilyev. He was standing in for his uncle, Admiral Vadim Vasilyev, who had fallen ill and couldn’t come. The admiral and I had gone a long way back.” The inspector made a long, drawn out hum. “Ah, that makes sense I suppose.” “Vasilyev helped to restrain Rogers when detective Cross was struggling to restrain him.” The colonel added. “Furthermore, without his help, that damned tiger and his accomplices would have managed to steal some valuable information.” “Did he now?” The labrador’s eyebrow rose Colonel Graves gestured to the two felines who were being interviewed by another police member several feet away. “See that they had sustained a number of cuts and bruises?” “Mmm…” The inspector continued to ask several more questions to the colonel, before he nodded in satisfaction, and signaled for his subordinates to move. Breathing a sigh of relief, the black panther turned to the cougar who was making his way towards him. Trotting directly behind the cougar was a male lynx. Both were draped in long, heavy coats and scarves wrapped their necks. “I really cannot thank you enough for your help, Mr. Cross… I am forever in your debt.” He said to the cougar. Detective Leonidas Cross, or Leon as he liked to go by, gave a dismissive wave to the panther before he brushed off the snow that had accumulated on the top of his hat. A small smile was etched on his bruised face. Indeed, the feline looked slightly worse for wear after the small brawl earlier that evening. “Anything for an old friend, colonel. The worst is behind us with Rogers gone.” He nodded towards the tiger who was glaring balefully at them through the windows of the police car. “I think you can sleep well now without anything burdening your mind.” The detective added, pulling the coat closer around himself. “I suppose.” Colonel Graves exhaled, watching as the police shoved the bound tiger into the car and slammed the door. “Still, I hadn’t thought it was Rogers of all people…” Cross gave a comforting pat on his friend’s shoulder. “At least Mr. Vasilyev was kind enough to subdue Rogers and recover the stolen plans.” The entourage of police and their cars soon drove off, leaving the villa back in its relative peaceful state once again. With the police gone, so was the excitement. The guests and servants slowly trickled back into the villa. The colonel, Cross, and Vasilyev soon followed the others, walking side by side as they headed into the warmth of the colonel’s villa. “All clear with the police?” Cross turned his question to the lynx as he handed his coat and hat to the butler who was standing helpfully by the door. Nikolai Vasilyev looked worse for wear. His face bore a few scratches, some were bleeding openly, and his dinner jacket was in disarray. However, the feline’s expression was one of immense satisfaction. “I’m all clear once I showed them my identification and papers. Good thing the good sergeant can read Cyrillic.” The lynx voiced with a small grin on his face. His voice bore almost no traces of his Rosvenian heritage. “I must apologize for deceiving you both however. It was imperative that my real identity was to remain hidden for my mission to succeed.” Cross nodded. “Yes of course. And we’re grateful that you’ve recovered what had been stolen, aren’t we, colonel?” “Hmm? Oh, yes.” The colonel nodded, absentmindedly caressing the folder that was pinned under his arm. “The Avalorian army is grateful for your help, Mr. Vasilyev.” “I’m just here to help.” The Rosvenian agent gave a small chuckle. “Well, I don’t think any of us is ready for bed now.” The colonel continued. “There was too many excitement for the night.” With the expressions of agreement from the two feline companions, he continued, “Why don’t we retire to the library for the time being?” The library, which had been used by Cross to confront Rogers of his motives early that evening, had been efficiently tidied. Looking at the room now, one would not expect that a brawl had taken place inside the richly paneled and thickly carpeted room. The servants had tidied the books back to their respective shelves in an orderly manner, the seats and chairs rearranged back into their prior position, and the colonel’s writing desk had been returned to its original, upright position by the tall windows. There were several blotches of ink on the carpet from the bottles that had shattered when Rogers slammed Cross to the desk in an attempt to escape, but the ink stains would wash off, hopefully. As the two felines made a beeline to the fireplace, the colonel went over to pour them whiskey from the side table, which had been thankfully untouched during the confrontation. “Thank you, Colonel.” Vasilyev nodded at the panther gratefully and drank. Colonel Graves went to take the spot beside the cougar detective. “So, you will be returning to Rosvenia soon, Vasilyev?” Cross inquired, sitting on the nearby velvet settee. “Since you’ve completed your objective here and whatnot.” “In a few days.” The lynx nodded as he sat to the adjacent settee. “I’ll be taking the train straight to Pierrograd,” said Vasilyev. “My services would be needed with how the country is at this moment… What about you, Mr. Cross? You’re from the Hesperian Federation, aren’t you?” The cougar took a big gulp of his whiskey before replying. “Yes, yes I am. I’ll be taking the train home, all the way to Valmagne-sur-Mer in Gallia. From there, I’ll take the connection to Kingshaven by ship.” “Sounds like you’ve got a long journey ahead, Mr. Cross.” Vasilyev sipped his whiskey. “Which train are you taking? The Continental Express?” Cross shook his head. “I’m not sure yet, but I’ll either take that or the Nightliner Limited back. Whichever won’t deplete my wallet.” He added with a small dry chuckle. “Why not the Mercurius Express?” Colonel Graves chimed in. “It’s the fastest, and not to mention the best train in all of Ivoria. Takes just four days to travel from here to Gallia.” “That’s true, right there.” Vasilyev agreed. “I’ll be on that train myself. Fine meals, cocktails, and not to mention, charming travelling companions.” The lynx chuckled. The colonel gestured in agreement with his glass. “You would be right.” “However, it’s also the most expensive option for me.” Cross sighed. “I simply can’t afford spend so much on a trip. I’ve used quite a huge amount of my savings to get here from Hesperia by airship.” He said. “It’ll be cheaper if I take the regular express trains.” Colonel Graves was quick to protest. “Oh, no, no. I can’t allow that. You’ve helped me a great deal, Cross, and I intend to repay the favor.” “Oh, but you shouldn’t—“ “I insist.” The colonel smiled. “I’ll cover for your travel expenses from Anatolia to Gallia. Besides, I’ll be taking the train too, but only as far as Ansburg. We could all travel on the same day.” Cross blinked. “I didn’t know that you’re heading back so soon. Why Ansburg, pray tell?” “There will be a joint military drill between Avaloria and Arlemania, requested by the Kaiser Albert himself.” The colonel replied. “Part of his plan to smooth out relations between the two countries.” Vasilyev hummed. “I heard rumours that the Kaiser is eyeing Princess Alexandrina for marriage. Perhaps this is one of his attempts to soften relationships between his empire and Avaloria.” “Judging from the number of times the Kaiser himself has visited Avaloria, I wouldn’t be surprised.” Cross remarked, sipping his whiskey. “Either way… you will be overseeing the military exercises, am I correct?” He turned to the colonel. The black panther nodded. “Quite right! And what better way to travel back with good company, eh?” He chuckled. Cross fell into a long, ponderous silence, sipping the last drop of his whiskey all the while. “Well then…” he gave a sigh and showed the colonel a small, amused smile. “If you insist, colonel, I would be happy to join you two.” The colonel grinned brightly. “It’s settled then!” He clasped his paws together. “I say why don’t you two enjoy a few days here before going back? Enjoy the rest of the week to recuperate, and then we can head to Hieropolis to catch on the Friday afternoon train next week.” He suggested, standing to his feet. “And to be frank, you two don’t look like you could travel without gaining a few looks.” The other two felines turned and glanced at each other, noting the bruises and scrapes on their faces. Cross chuckled. “Yes… I think you’re right, colonel.” “I could use a few days of rest.” Vasilyev nodded in agreement. “Splendid! I’ll have our berths arranged.” The colonel spoke again. “You won’t need to worry a single thing.” Vasilyev poured another helping of whiskey to himself. “Looks like we’ll have a pretty enjoyable journey ahead of us.” Cross couldn’t agree more. “Looks like we will.” He smiled at the lynx, and asked to refill his glass. * * * Richard Caine took a large drag of his smoke and blew, looking down to the open air palm court from the balcony of his hotel room several floors above. Tables and chairs had been arranged by the hotel stewards so that the guests could dine under the fine, clear night. He could see a few guests had trickled out from the adjacent dining room, clad in dinner jackets and elegant gowns. Some of the ladies braved to bare their shoulders and arms even though it was quite a chilly night. Nights in Misarya could be very cold, especially in winter, contrasting to its daytime temperatures. It baffled Richard to no end how extreme temperatures could shift in the desert. The wolverine continued this idle activity of observing the servants and guests for a few more minutes before he flicked the butt of his cigarette and headed back into his room. Closing the doors behind him, Richard went to check his reflection on the nearby mirror, straightening his collar and bowtie, before he went to grab the black tailcoat hanging by the open wardrobe. There came a knock on the door just as he was straightening his dinner jacket. “Yes?” “It’s me, Rick.” Came his uncle’s voice from the door. “Just a second.” Richard went to the door and turned the lock open. His uncle was standing just outside, sporting the small grin that seemed to be permanently plastered on his face. Like Richard, Simon Caine was dressed in a dinner jacket, which was slightly stretched over the wolverine’s large, but sturdily built figure. His salt and pepper hair was neatly combed back, and Richard thought his uncle looked pretty dashing for his age. “Well, well. You look strapping, as always.” The older wolverine smiled appreciatively, before he blinked and made a small gesture with his paw. “Your bowtie is slightly off.” He told his nephew. His fingers were already reaching for the tie. “Do you mind if…?” Richard had a bemused smile on his face as he shook his head. “Not at all.” Simon made a short work to straighten his nephew’s bowtie, and took a few more seconds to make sure the younger wolverine was presentable. “There. Perfect.” Richard chuckled and beamed. “Thanks, uncle.” “You’re welcome!” The older wolverine smiled. “Oh right, these just came in.” He then pulled out several enveloped from inside of his jacket. “Oh?” Richard quickly flipped through the letters and tore them open. The first two was from his alma mater, the Stainbridge University in Avaloria, inviting him for an alumni spring reunion. The second one was a letter from his archeology professor, asking about his recent expedition to the Misaryan Great Tombs. The third envelope was a telegram, sent from a hotel in Hieropolis, Anatolia, dated today, and it was sent just about an hour ago. The name of the sender was his friend, whose letter Richard had been waiting for a few days now. Opening the envelope, Richard’s eyes fell to the neatly printed letters which read, ‘FOUND NEW INFO ABOUT THE BOX = OLD BIRD KEPT ASKING ABOUT THE TRINKET = WILL HEAD TO AS-QAIR & MEET YOU AT THE HOTEL IN TWO DAYS’ “Was that from Warren?” Simon inquired when Richard folded the telegram back to its envelope. The younger wolverine nodded. “Yeah. Sounds like Trent had finally found a lead on our nifty little trinket here.” He said, turning his head slightly to the corner of the bedroom. “Oh, really?” Simon hummed. He followed his nephew’s line of gaze, looking at the large, solid black trunk nestled right next to the end table. It was heavily secured by three locks with a combination number on each lock. Opening them would also require a special key, which the two wolverines always kept on themselves. Getting that little souvenir from the Great Tombs had been quite the grueling task, and not to mention the permits they had to apply to get it shipped across the country. The ancient and valuable trinket they found held a few surprises… if not shocking. Richard didn’t want to risk it being lost or stolen after all the trouble he and his uncle had been through. Especially not when their client had promised a large amount of payment for that artefact. “Well any information about that strange box there would be good. What did he say?” Richard shook his head. “Nothing, really…” He handed the envelope to his uncle. “He said he’d meet us here in two days, and that’s all.” Simon hummed as he read the letter. “Looks like your client is getting more impatient to get his souvenir.” Richard let out a soft snort. “Ainsworth is too impatient for his own good. We’ll give him the box when he’s given us the payment.” “Of course, boy.” The older wolverine chuckled. “Well, let’s head down. They’ve rang the dinner gong a while ago.” Nodding, Richard went to lock every windows and doors before he followed his uncle to the hallway outside. Simon’s paw was on Richard’s shoulder as they headed for the elevator lobby, pulling the younger wolverine close. The elevator brought the two down to the ground floor and they made a beeline towards the dining hall just off to the side of the lobby. The magnificent hall, two stories high and lined with windows on two sides, was already filled with guests. The orchestra was playing a lively waltz to which several couples were dancing to on the marble lined dance floor. Wall to ceiling glass doors opened to the palm court outside. It would seem most of the guests wanted to enjoy some fresh air tonight, Richard noted as he and his uncle were shown to their table by their waiter. They weren’t lead outside, thankfully, but it would seem their table had already been occupied by a single guest. He was a tall, broad shouldered grey wolf with a stern looking face and a predominantly black and white fur, with shades of brown spread evenly along his robust figure that was clad in impeccable set of tails. The wolf’s sharp amber eyes flicked between Richard and his uncle for a moment before he gestured to the empty seat with a flicker of a smile. “Good evening.” Simon greeted as they sat down. “I’m Simon Caine.” “Heinrich Luther.” He introduced himself. His tone carried the slight guttural, Arlemanian accent. Richard introduced himself as well before he picked up the menu card and looked through the list of food that was offered that night. For some reason, he felt that Luther was scrutinizing him and his uncle a bit too closely. When he went to glance at the wolf, the canine’s gaze was already somewhere else, casually so. It would seem that the wolf was studying a pair of lions who were dancing slowly with the music, Richard thought as he followed the canine’s gaze. Honeymooners, judging by their expressions on their faces. Richard thought that the lioness was very beautiful in her simple, but undoubtedly expensive black dress. An impressive necklace was draped over her neck, consisting of huge, intricate golden beads and beautiful sapphires. The lioness’ husband was also very handsome, with strong jaw, a dazzling smile, neatly trimmed auburn mane, and brilliant grey eyes. His white dinner jacket fitted his athletic frame perfectly. “Those two made a really good pair.” His uncle remarked thoughtfully. “Oh, isn’t she Eliza Baxter?” “She’s Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer now.” Heinrich Luther intoned. Simon Caine regarded the wolf with interest. “Indeed? I didn’t know she’s married. That Meyer is a lucky bastard.” He chuckled. “And she’s a very lucky girl.” Richard remarked, eyes fixed on the couple. “Undoubtedly.” Luther nodded, drinking his wine. “News of her marriage was all over the newspapers in Avaloria for the past week.” “Ah, I see. My uncle and I had been busy with the excavation at the Great Tombs for the past month, hence why.” Richard chuckled. “She’s a big star then?” “I tell you, nephew, Elisabeth Baxter—or Meyer as she is now, is one of Avaloria’s richest women.” Simon Caine explained. “I was well acquainted with her father. Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman. He also invested a lot on theatres and cinemas at the Cross End. We’ve been to one of his theatres a few years ago, actually.” He chuckled. “Remember, Rick? It was a performance for Wilhelm V.” “Oh, really?” The younger wolverine nodded slowly. “Oh, right, right. That theatre was quite opulent, and I remembered it was quite the brilliant play too. And… did you say Julius Baxter was a brilliant businessman?” He added. “He had passed away two years ago.” Luther remarked in his guttural baritone. “Mrs. Meyer now holds his businesses.” “As it is expected.” Simon nodded, drinking the champagne which had been poured by the waiter. “I heard she’s also a shrewd businesswoman.” The wolf nodded. “That she is. How well are you acquainted with the Baxter family, Mr. Caine?” He asked, levelling his gaze to Simon. The wolverine blinked. “Just quite, actually. Me and Julius were schoolmates. We shared the same dormitory and classes, but never really talked to him that much outside homework and school projects. I’ve also made a few business deals with the late Mr. Baxter, with his obsession on ancient artefacts and such.” Luther nodded with a hum. “I see.” He uttered, before his attention was drawn to the waiter who had come around, bringing another person to their table. It was a male Akita with handsome brown coat with black markings. He looked pretty young, perhaps in his early twenties. However, despite a hint of nervousness tugging on his smiling muzzle, the canine had an air of ease about him, like a well-seasoned traveler. “Hullo. Spencer Calius. Pleasure to meet you.” Richard blinked, not expecting the fluent Avalorian, if not slightly inflected with a hint of an accent, coming from the Akita’s lips. His name itself suggested that the canine wasn’t wholly oriental in his origin. “The pleasure is mine, young man.” Simon Caine shook his paws with the Akita, giving a very wide, if not a rather too friendly grin. Richard nudged his uncle slightly. Simon Caine quickly cleared his throat and toned down his smile. “Travelling all by yourself, Mr. Calius?” “Yeah, I am. I had friends actually, but we parted ways awhile back,” said Spencer. “They wanted to go back to Columbia and I would like to explore the old world a bit more so, we agreed to split up here.” He explained with a shrug of his shoulders. “Understandable. However, it’s rather taxing, travelling by yourself, isn’t it?” Richard went to ask. Spencer hummed. “Hmm, that’s true but it’s rather refreshing actually. I got to sightsee every interesting part of Misarya with my own, leisure pace. My friends could be rather excitable, really.” “Of course.” Richard nodded. “So, you’ve toured the Nahail River then?” “Oh yes, it’s quite the adventure!” The Akita said with a wide grin. “I’ve seen so many interesting ruins and sights. My fellow passengers were quite interesting too. Professors, archeologists, novelists, honeymooners… like those two over there,” he nodded to the Meyers couple, “and uh…” He turned to Luther, tilting his head to the side. “Huh… didn’t we meet on the boat?” The wolf’s response was rather noncommittal. “We might have.” “Ah? Er… alright then.” Dinner proceeded without many comments. However, Richard did engage Spencer in a small discussion about their excavation work at the Great Tombs and what they found. It certainly drew interest from Akita, who had apparently visited the location during his tour down the Nahail. The Meyers had gone to occupy the small table next to theirs, and Richard couldn’t help but admire the couple. They looked truly in love, especially Theodore Meyer. No doubt, his new wife had truly captivated him. However, aside from the cheerful music and the splendid food, dinner progressed rather uneventfully. Heinrich Luther offered a curt “Evening,” before he stood up and left, making his way towards the bar that was outside the dining hall. As the waiter brought out the desserts, Richard watched as two guests rose from the table across the room and made their way towards the Meyers, hand in hand. One was a young lioness with her hair curled into fashionable waves, and the other was a rather boyish looking leopard. Both of them were quite good looking, but they didn’t quite stand out. Richard guessed that they were another newlywed couple, or perhaps recently engaged. He couldn’t be sure. However, the strange, intense expression on the lioness’ face was quite startling for him. “Oh, Eliza! I didn’t know you’re staying here. What a pleasant surprise!” The lioness exclaimed. From the expression on Eliza Meyer’s face, it was indeed a surprise, but far from pleasant. Her husband, Theodore Meyer, also looked quite shocked. In fact, the two lions looked rather awkward meeting this Cathy. Eliza quickly stood up after she managed to gather he bearings. “Cathy! I didn’t know you’re staying here!” She turned her attention to the leopard standing beside Cathy. “Oh, and who is this?” Cathy pulled the leopard by his arm, smiling rather brightly. Too brightly at that. “Zachary Hale. Meet Eliza Bax—I mean, Eliza Meyer. And I’m sure you knew Theodore Meyer?” She nodded her head to the lion. Theodore Meyer nodded wordlessly. He was still staring at Cathy and Zachary Hale, but mostly Zachary Hale, in surprise. “Oh yes. We met a couple of times,” said Zachary Hale. The leopard smiled somewhat shyly at the lion in question. Theodore Meyer gave a small, if not nervous smile. “Yes… we studied at Bridgeford together.” There was an unreadable expression in the lion’s grey eyes, which was reflected by Zachary Hale. However, the leopard turned his attention to Cathy who had continued speaking. “Well, I just wanted to tell you, Lizzy. Me and Zach are engaged!” Cathy practically exclaimed to her friend. “Engaged?” Came the astonished reply from the Meyers. Richard quickly turned away from the conversation, knowing how women liked to gush and gossip, especially when they were going to get married, or during their honeymoon. His attention was completely drawn away the next moment, as one of the waiters came down towards him with a small tray bearing an envelope. “Telegram for Mr. R. Caine.” The uniformed bear announced. “Oh, that’d be me. Thank you.” Richard went and took the telegram from the waiter. He quickly opened it when he read that it was sent by Trent Warren. ‘CHANGE OF PLANS = DEPART MERCURIUS EXPRESS NEXT FRIDAY 5 PM HIEROPLS. CENTRAL STATION = OLD BIRD WILL BE THERE WITH THE GOLD = REPLY PROMPTLY = YOUR PAL TRENT’ Folding the telegram, Richard made a mental calculation in his mind. Travelling from Misarya to Anatolia will take half a day by air. Two if they were delayed by the weather. If they left the day after tomorrow, there will be still time to catch up with Trent and take the Friday train. He turned his head to his uncle when the older wolverine nudged him softly. “Something urgent?” Richard gave a slight shrug. “Well, sounds like it. Looks like we’ll have to meet up with Trent in Anatolia instead.” He said. “Why the sudden change?” His uncle voiced his confusion. “He didn’t say, but it sounds like he found some new leads.” Richard replied, lowering his tone slightly and handed the telegram to his uncle. “Well, we can catch up with him if we take the airship in two days.” “Ah, that’s rather sudden, isn’t it?” Simon remarked. “I suppose so.” Richard sighed and stood up. “I better reply to this telegram, so please excuse me.” He added to the guests on his table. “No problem!” Spencer gave the wolverine a nod. “It sounds urgent so I don’t mind. Perhaps we might even meet in Anatolia later on.” He chuckled. Evidently, he had heard about their part of conversation. Simon smiled rather tightly as he turned to the Akita. “Oh?” “I’ll be going back to Columbia after this. A friend of mine was kind enough to book me a passage on a train.” Chuckling, Richard straightened his jacket and made his way out of the dining room, intend to find the telegram office in the hotel. He was sure he saw one this afternoon, close to the lobby. * * * Several hundred feet above the vast, arid desert of Eravia, a silvery airship was sailing lazily through golden dunes with several dozen passengers housed within its cigar-shaped hull. While not being the largest airships, the Adhara was one of the fastest with the most comfortable, finely appointed accommodations with affordable price. It was that sole reason that Dr. Hector LeFevre took the Eravian airship on his return trip to Anatolia. From there, he would take a transit flight back to his home in Gallia. The badger, short and robust but also unusually tall for his species, was seated by the airship’s small, but cozy lounge. A cup of chilled sweet tea was wrapped around his paw. The doctor’s attention wasn’t directed to the drink or even the view outside the wide, picture windows of the lounge. Instead, LeFevre was fully engrossed with the newspaper before him. It was the international edition of the local papers that had been printed and translated to Gallian. “Là là.” He muttered in annoyance as he read the headline on the third page, which announced that weather conditions in northern Ivoria had worsened. Weather forecast predicted that snow will come down heavily in the next few weeks. All flights to and from Avaloria, Hesperia, Gallia, Arlemania, Rosvenia, and Norvdal would be canceled until further notice. “Looks like I would have to take the train instead.” He said to particularly no one. “Perhaps you should, old friend.” LeFevre stood, let out a delighted exclamation, and went to give the sabertooth that had been standing right behind him a friendly hug. “Armand, mon vieil ami!” LeFevre beamed. “What brings you here? Come, come, sit with me.” Armand Förstner was a sabretooth tiger of middle age with a friendly demeanor. A single silver plated false fang was in place of his original right-side fang. His bright brown eyes were energetic and playful as he gave a good-natured slap on the badger’s back (who was a few heads shorter than him) while grinning brightly. “I am here on business, LeFevre. The usual duties of a director: monthly supervision and other nonsense.” The sabertooth replied in his usual, slightly synthesized voice as he sat down. LeFevre could see the mechanical collar that wrapped around his old friend’s neck partially hidden under the feline’s shirt collar. It assisted the sabertooth’s speech since Förstner had his vocal cords damaged during an accident a few years ago. “Ah, you’re overseeing the grand project to connect your train lines from Southern Ivoria to the East?” LeFevre guessed. “You’ve been monitoring the progress in Evaria then?” “Quite right my friend.” Förstner nodded. “Progress is slow, but the Ispania-Misarya-Anatolia-Eravia railway would be completed by the end of next year if favor is in our side.” “And soon your gleaming trains will thunder through the sandy deserts, eh?” LeFevre grinned. “It would be a dream come true for your bosses, no?” The sabertooth nodded with a small smile. “Quite right. Trains bearing the Mercurius Ferroviaire name would soon be rolling through this new route. I’m thinking of naming this route as the Horus-Aerion Express.” “The Horus-Aerion Express? After the Horus Mountains?” The mustelid doctor tilted his head slightly. The sabertooth smiled. “Naturally! The new train route will pass through the mountain range.” He revealed. “The company had decided to extend the Aerion Express’ route from Ispania onwards so I think it’s the most fitting name. This new line will be our most profitable one, I’d wager.” “That is a pretty fitting name, I agree.” LeFevre chuckled. “And I’m sure it will. This rail will link all of your company’s train routes, doesn’t it?” “Why of course!” The two continued to talk about Förstner’s new train project as the day slowly passed, discussing about how the new line would connect all of Förstner’s train services throughout the continent. When fully completed, the Horus-Aerion Express could take passengers from Madrino City, Ispania towards Misarya, and then all the way to Asaddia, Eravia where the train will continue towards its terminus in Hieropolis, Anatolia. “I didn’t get to ask,” said the sabertooth when he and LeFevre were strolling around the glass enclosed promenade deck, “what business have you in Eravia? I’ve never known you’d like to travel too far away from home.” “It was a patient’s request, you see,” replied the badger. “A Gallian diplomat had fallen seriously ill after a trip to the local excavation site. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had to perform an emergency surgery on him. He’s in fine condition now, but I had him sent to Gallia for better treatment ahead of me. He’ll be arriving approximately tomorrow morning in Luciere.” “Ah, that’s good news then.” Förstner nodded. “Still, it was surprising that you would fly all the way this far south.” The doctor chuckled with a nod. “Life can give us some few surprises, yes. Like the news of the cold front brewing in the northern regions for instance. No doubt a telegram informing that my airship to Gallia is cancelled would be waiting for me in Hieropolis.” He lamented. Förstner gave a slight hum. “Well, when airships couldn’t make it due to bad weather, trains or boats certainly can. At least, I’m confident my trains could go through the cold weather with no problem. No problem at all.” He chuckled at that. “You’re heading back to Gallia then?” “Yes I am. I must see my patient, after all.” “And you haven’t booked a berth on a train or a ship?” LeFevre knew where his friend was going, but he humoured him nonetheless. “I haven’t, yes.” “Well then, as the director of the line, let me provide you with a berth on the Mercurius Express, my friend. No, no, it won’t be a problem. It’ll be a pleasure, travelling with a friend, yes?” With Förstner’s insistence and persuasion, the badger doctor finally agreed, much to the sabertooth’s delight. “I owe you, my friend.” He said. “Consider this a debt repaid. After all, you did save my life during the Great War.” Förstner was practically purring pleasantly. LeFevre responded by giving a warm pat on his friend’s shoulder and a small smile. “You flatter me.” He added with a slight chuckle. “You will be joining the train then?” “Oh yes, but only until Obersthaven. I’m personally overseeing that some important guests will have a comfortable journey to Arlemania.” The sabertooth said. “Like Dirk Thorstein, the famous Columbian violinist who’s in this airship with us right now. He and his two friends had just completed their tour, playing for the Eravian sultans. In fact, I think I saw him and his group right there.” Following the sabertooth’s line of sight, LeFevre saw a tall, broad shouldered arctic wolf standing a few ways away, leaning over the promenade windows. He had a rather sophisticated but approachable and charming air. Standing close to the wolf were his fellow musicians, as it would seem. One was a ram whose curled horns caused him to have the impression that he towered over every everybody else, and the other was an gangly, lean, male leopard. All three were in the company of sophisticated, important looking people, conversing about their latest performance and whatnot. However, Dirk Thorstein was talking with a rather unassuming wolf with a predominant dark grey fur. “You said you’re also a violinist, Herr Schroeder?” LeFevre heard the wolf spoke as they walked past the two canines. “Yes I am, but I’ve fallen out of practice, unfortunately.” The grey wolf replied. “I used to have a tutor from the… Ansburg Philharmonic. I am not as good as you, Thornstein, I must admit.” “It takes time and practice.” The Columbian violinist replied amicably. “And a tutor from the Ansburg Philharmonic? Really? Well, I say that was quite the distinction!” “Hmm, where did you say Dirk Thorstein was from again?” LeFevre finally asked as Herr Schroeder replied in a humble manner, adding that his tutor was talented but quite the slave driver. “I didn’t say.” Förstner hummed. “Also, I’m not quite sure. I knew he debuted in Centropolis a few years back and gained prominence in Columbia as a brilliant soloist. He had even toured around the world a few times.” LeFevre nodded. “I heard of that as well. I do believe he has a bit of an accent… Norvdallian perhaps?” “Still have an eye over the details I see!” The sabertooth chuckled. “Well, Columbia is a big melting pot of a country, my friend. One living there could have any strange accents from all over the world.” The doctor pondered his friend’s statement. “I guess you’re right.” He said. “Well then, tell me more about your special guests you have to escort.” “Gladly! We have a few celebrities beside Thornstein. There’s Diana Adler, the famous Cross End actress; and also, Arturo Lazzari, the world-renowned opera singer. I heard he’s going to tour the North Columbian continent for the season… Ah, aside from the celebrities, there’s also Count Viktor Konstantinov and Duchess Natasha Nikolaevna of Rosvenia who will be travelling back to their home. No doubt they would be needed in the royal court with the current political turmoil in their country…” The day quickly turns to night and along came a very satisfying dinner in the airship’s wide, and cozy dining hall. Even though it was somewhat simple, the meal was extremely delectable, thought LeFevre. The badger soon found himself strolling along the promenade once again, intent to get a little exercise after the hearty meal. He couldn’t do to sleep with a full feeling in his stomach. Humming a little tune, the Gallian doctor greeted a couple of passengers who had went to have a nightly stroll just as himself. Most had turned in for the night. The sky outside was calm and cloudless, he noted. Stars shone through brightly in the inky black sky and there’s no moon in sight. It was almost poetic, LeFevre mused as he continued his stroll and rounded through the hallway that would lead to the other promenade on the other side of the Adhara. Just as he was approaching the entryway to the staircase, he heard hushed voices, almost like a lament. The doctor slowed down his steps as the noises became slightly clearer. “I wish I’m strong enough to get through this…” A pause, a light, almost inaudible gasp, followed with a sigh. “You are strong. Why did you ever think otherwise?” “If only I could.” The first voice said again. It was Herr Schroeder’s voice, LeFevre realized. Only, he sounded not like himself. “I just…” “You can, and you will. We’ll get through this… together.” The second voice, which LeFevre had identified as the firm voice of Dirk Thorstein, intoned. “After that… nothing can touch us…” Schroeder agreed softly, before it abruptly stopped. LeFevre turned his head away from the doorway where he had caught a glimpse of the two wolves standing closely under the staircase. Both men seem to be frozen in place, and the doctor could feel their eyes following him as he walked past. “The stars are very bright tonight,” he thought to himself absently as he continued on his stroll, smiling lightly to himself. When he came around to the staircase landing again, the two wolves were nowhere to be seen. Nor the doctor could see the end of their tails in the corridors as LeFevre returned to his cabin on the lower decks of the airship. The sky was clear and blue the next morning, with a blanket of white covered the hilly fields that surrounded the city of Hieropolis. It marveled the badger doctor on how snow could even fall in a country known by its humidity and heat in the summer. During breakfast, LeFevre was reminded of the conversation he overheard last night as he was seated right across Dirk Thorstein. The arctic wolf was alone, while Herr Schroeder was sitting a few tables away, apparently engaged in a conversation with a family of huskies. The Columbian violinist was barely eating his food. Schroeder would occasionally glance to Thornstein’s direction, but the musician didn’t give him any signs of acknowledgement. Within a blink, the grey wolf’s gaze was directed to something else entirely. It would seem that the two wolves were keen not to acknowledge each other today. LeFevre observed that the two men merely gave each other curt, polite greetings as they walked pass by. “This is a funny little drama I’m witnessing.” The doctor thought to himself when he saw the two men standing side by side by the lounge windows a few hours later. None of them spoke a thing, appearing to be very lost in thought. Or perhaps they were just amazed by the sight of the snow covered, sprawling city of Hieropolis that loomed underneath them. Thoughts of the two wolves eluded the Gallian doctor’s mind as the Adhara finally landed at Hieropolis International Airfield. LeFevre was wholly distracted for the next few hours, as he had to mind his large number of luggage during disembarkation. He barely even noticed when Herr Schroeder bumped past him as he and the other passengers descended down from the airship. The Arlemaninan wolf was apparently in a hurry, as LeFevre quickly lost sight of him in the crowd. After getting through the immigration checkpoint and making sure that he had all of his luggages with him, LeFevre found Förstner by the airfield’s entrance. The sabertooth had took it upon himself to escort the doctor to the Continental Court Hotel. Apparently, the hotel was operated by a subsidiary company to Förstner’s train company that managed hotels which would provided quality accommodations for passengers of his train, before and after their train journeys. Perhaps it was a coincidence that LeFevre had booked a room in the hotel in advance beforehand, but he found it really convenient that the hotel would provide a shuttle service to Hieropolis Central Station on the day he and Förstner would have to depart. Not a few hours after he had checked into the hotel, a telegram from the airship company came for the doctor. It confirmed LeFevre’s prediction that his flight to Gallia was cancelled due to bad weather. The sabertooth was quick to book LeFevre a berth on the Mercurius Express when the doctor told his old friend about the news. “The earliest train would leave this Friday afternoon.” The sabertooth had said as he rejoined his exasperated and bemused friend on the hotel’s bar. “You will be berthed in the finest first class compartment onboard, and your expenses will be on me. All in good will of course.” LeFevre’s polite protests fell on deaf ears. “Like I said, you won’t need to worry about anything,” said Förstner with a broad smile. “I had the nuisance of the ticketing and registration taken care of. You’ll only need to sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey back to Gallia.” “If you say so, mon ami.” LeFevre nodded to his friend with a small smile. “If you say so.”
  2. Version 1.0.0

    A Familiar Death is the second book in the Death by Predation series. if you want to read the first chapter, you can go here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/19415184 or you can find the e-stores selling the novel through here: https://books2read.com/u/3k0a8n Here is the back-cover blurb for the novel Out of the Jungle Forced to return home to investigate a death, Marlot finds himself confronted with all the reasons he left. With council more interested in getting him to close the case quickly than getting the real killer to pay, his family expecting him to stay and having to deal with the male while killed his first love, and is now the town’s Enforcer, is it any wonder all his insecurities are coming back? Can even having Trembor at his side be enough, when the danger of being exposed as lovers would bring the town folks on them with deadly intent? And how can Trembor be surprised when Marlot grabs the opportunity to get back at the council for the way they treated him his whole life with all his claws and won’t let go of it. Getting the killer to pay might not be certain, but Marlot knows he can get his revenge on all of them. So long as he keeps to the hunt. But can he look past his anger to see the cost of what he wants to do?

    $2.99

  3. From the album: Published Novels

    Out of the Jungle Forced to return home to investigate a death, Marlot finds himself confronted with all the reasons he left. With a council more interested in getting him to close the case quickly than getting the real killer to pay, his family expecting him to stay and having to deal with the male while killed his first love, and is now the town’s Enforcer, is it any wonder all his insecurities are coming back? Can even having Trembor at his side be enough, when the danger of being exposed as lovers would bring the town folks on them with deadly intent? And how can Trembor be surprised when Marlot grabs the opportunity to get back at the council for the way they treated him his whole life with all his claws and won’t let go of it. Getting the killer to pay might not be certain, but Marlot knows he can get his revenge on all of them. So long as he keeps to the hunt. But can he look past his anger to see the cost of what he wants to do A familiar Death is the second book in the Death by Predation series. And it can be pre-ordered through here: https://www.books2read.com/b/3k0a8n The cover was done by https://www.furaffinity.net/user/latex/
  4. Kindar

    Chapter 11

    "Seth!" I yelled at the top of my lungs kicking the door off its hinges. The first thing I saw was the couch so I tenderly placed Walter's body on it, then I fell to my knees and cried. The trek back here took longer than my search because my balls hurt so much I couldn't run. I didn't even consider stopping to relieve the pressure; I deserved the pain for getting Walter killed. After a while the tears stopped enough for me to realize Seth still wasn't there. I cursed under my breath and headed to his lab. I would have loved to stomp there, but my balls wouldn't let me. I found him at his workbench, working on something small. I pulled him of his seat and held him against the wall. "Damn it Seth, didn't you hear me calling you?" Seth's eyes were unfocussed and his fingers were moving before him like he was still working on something. I dropped him and went to the kitchen where I knew he kept more joints. I had to go through half the cupboards, most of which ended up with ripped off doors, before I found a box of them. Seth was back at his workbench when I came back and I had to go through his pockets to find the lighter. The first few puffs were shallow as he kept working, the next ones deepened and he grabbed the second joint out of my hand. After that he was able to light them himself so all I could do was pace while I waited for him to be high enough to notice the world. That took ten excruciating long minutes. He grabbed his stomach and bent over. "Man, I'm famished. How long have I been working?" I didn't give him time to reach for his watch I grabbed him by the collar and lifted him. "I want you to call them." "Huh? Call who?" "The wish catcher guys you used to work for." "What? I don't know how, I don't have anything to do with them anymore." I pulled him close and glared at him. "Don't fuck with me Seth. I know they wouldn't have let you go without giving you a way to contact them, so you're going to go find it and then you're going to call them, do you get that?" "Yeah, yeah, I get it. I'll look for . . . Man, what happened to your arm?" I shook him to get his gaze back to my face. "Focus on what's important Seth. That call is all that matters, not my arm, just that call." My arm was now covered with bleeding scabs as every time I moved it the dried blood broke. It looked pretty bad, and didn't' smell all that great either. I let him go and followed him to his bedroom, where he started looking through a file cabinet. "Why do you want me to call them anyway?" "I need them to lock me up and throw away the key." "Why'd you want them to do that?" "Because I killed Walter." Seth started at me. "You what?" "You heard me. I killed him, D.E.A.D. dead." Seth grabbed the phone and dialed. "This is Seth Burnsteng. I have a wisher here who says he killed someone. No, I don't think he's dangerous, he's turning himself him. Yeah, that's him. Well, that's what he said. Ok, we'll be waiting for you." I'd heard what I wanted to hear so I headed to the living room. I picked up Walter and cradled him in my arms as I sat down to wait, constantly apologizing to him for getting him killed. I could feel Seth on the side, but he wasn't important right now. "I thought you said you killed him," Seth said after a minute of silence. "I might as well. I shouldn't have gotten him mixed up in this and I should have kept on going with him to look for that woman. If I'd done that he would still be alive." "You didn't do this," Seth said with such certainty that I found myself baring my teeth at him and growling. He took a step back and I went back to focusing on Walter. Seth made another call. "It's Seth again. You're going to have to bring more people, the Actress is here. No, not at my place but somewhere in the area, she's the one committed the murder. Yes I'm sure; I still remember the bodies she left in the eighties. Yes, he's been in a fight with her. Yes, I think he'll still want you to take him in." Seth sat on the other end of the couch and wisely kept quiet. * * * * * The cot I was lying on was cold and uncomfortable. My arm was bandaged and numb, my balls were in so much pain that even breathing hurt and my stomach had been screaming at me for the last two days. The cell I was in could have been the same one they put me in before for all I knew. I didn't care; I just wish they would turn on the force field and forget about me. Instead I got a doctor checking on my arm every day. He said that he was sure they would be able to reattach my skin back to my arm. I didn't care about that, as far as I was concerned what they should be doing is ripping every inch of my skin off so I'd feel the pain Walter felt. Someone also brought me food three times a day, but I didn't eat any of it. I didn't want anything to lessen the pain I felt. I hadn't even jerked off since finding Walter; I didn't deserve any kind of relief. I was going through the hundredth way I could have saved Walter when someone stopped in front of my cell. The doctor had already changed the bandages on my arm this morning and it was too early for the lunch tray "Hello Mister Benton." The voice sounded familiar, strong and commanding, but also soothing; like someone's grandfather. I glanced at him and recognized the man who'd questioned us the previous time I was here. I turned on my side, with my back to him; my arm and balls protested. "What do you want?" I asked bitterly. "I wanted to thank you for helping us find the Actress. She disappeared eleven years ago and if not for you she might have gone on killing with impunity." "And how did I help you do that? I don't even remember where that damned cave is." "We found it by backtracking where you had been using the tracker that we implanted in you." The surprise made me sit up and then bend over as my balls really complained. I glared at the older man. "You put a tracker in me?" "Yes, you and your friends, except for Mister Marcozy; we couldn't find a way to pierce his skin." "Wait a minute, if you've known where I was all this time how cone I've been walking free all this time?" "Because at no time were you a prisoner, Mister Benton. You didn't kill anyone in your escape and once outside you kept a low profile so we had no need to retrieve you, or your friends. "And now that the actress is on her way here your arm should be fixed up soon." The mention of my arm made me look at it and brought visions of Walter's corpse. "Is something wrong? I thought the news would lighten your mood, not darken it." "If you really want to do something for me, find a way to bring Walter back." "I'm sorry, but there are things which are beyond us." "That's what I thought." I lied back down and curled up. "Just turn the force field back on and leave me alone." "I won't do that, Mister Benton, you're not a prisoner." "I'm a monster," I said softly blinking as tears fell, "and a murderer. I shouldn't be allowed to be free." "No, you are neither of those things." "What am I then?" "You are a young man who went through a horrible experience, but it's my hope that something good can come from it." "What good could ever come from someone's death?" "You've seen what a Wisher can do now, so maybe you can work with us to stop the others like her, to make sure no one else suffers like you did." I didn't say anything, I didn't know what to think of the offer. "All I ask is that you think about it; your life isn't over and you certainly shouldn't be spending it in this cell." He turned to leave and then stopped. "Oh, and Seth asked me to bring you this," he placed a watch the table by the door and then left. * * * * * The dinner time crowd was thinning when the man entered the diner. He put his hat and overcoat on the rack and tucked his briefcase under the booth's table. The waitress gave him her best smile and admired his muscular frame as she brought him the menu. The man ordered the special and asked for the paper. He read it slowly as he ate. He smiled to the waitress when she refilled his cup and politely turned her down when she started flirting; she was pretty enough, being a petite brunette and close to his age, but she wasn't his style. Time passed, people came and went while he continued to read the paper and ordered the occasional piece of pie. When he finished the paper he folded it and set it aside before looking up for the waitress. The woman who came to his table was older, in her mid fifties and had light brown hair, cut short. "Can I get you a refill, Hun?" "Yes please," the man said with a smile, handing her his cup. "Did your wife kick you out?" She asked him putting his full cup down. "What? No, what makes you think that?" "The cook told me you got his just after dinner time and you've been reading that paper all evening. I'd expect a good looking man like you to have someone he'd be in a hurry to go back to." "Actually, I was waiting for someone." "Who?" "You, Anna. Would you mind sitting down?" She raised an eyebrow before looking around, most tables were empty and the other waitress could deal with the few customers at the counter. "Why are you waiting for me?" she asked as she sat. "Because I need your help." He wrapped his hands around his cup and looked at it for a moment. "I did something horrible - I didn't mean to, but someone is suffering because of it." He looked at her. "I need you to undo my last wish." She frowned. "Wish? I don't understand Hun, how can you making a wish hurt someone? And how could I help?" "Please Anna, don't insult my intelligence, I know exactly what you are. In fact it was so easy to figure it out that I'm amazed no one else has yet." "I'm a woman who's getting to old to be a waitress?" "You're the one who's been granting wishes." Anna started to laugh, but the seriousness with which he was watching her made here put her hand over your mouth to stop. "Oh honey," she said once she got the giggles under control, "if I could grant wishes would I really work here?" "You look exactly like you did when you started working here ten years ago." "I exercise regularly and my hair color has been coming out of a bottle for longer than I've been working here." "Since you started here there's been an increase in unusual things happening in the city. I've also gone through the archives of the people chasing me and they've been able to figure out that everyone who had their wish granted had dealt with people in the service industries a few days before it happened. I'm willing to bet you were at all of those." Her expression softened as his hardened; she wrapped her hands around his. "Oh honey, I don't know what's happened that hurt you so much, but wishes don't come true. Even if they did, I'm sure there'd be some kind of rule that prevents them from just being undone." His eyes tightened. "So you're not going to help me." "I can't help you Hun, If you did something, you need to take responsibility for that and fix it." "Fine." He stood and threw a couple of twenties on the table. He grabbed his coat and hat and stormed out of the diner. He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket once he was across the road. "You should have helped me," he mumbled as he kept walking and dialed a number, "now I'm going to have to show you that we're just too dangerous to have around." The flash of the diner exploding momentarily sharpened his shadow on the ground and the shockwave almost made him loose his balance. "I promise you Anna, I'm not going to stop until you've undone this."
  5. Kindar

    Chapter 10

    "Hey Walt!" I watched as Walter turned and jumped with his eyes wide like saucers. It would have been funny if he hadn't been close to the edge. He caught himself on a larger rock and held on to it for support with a hand while the other went to his chest. "You ok man?" I asked as I went to him, "sorry about that, I didn't mean to startle you." "I am quite well," he replied still watching me, "I simply need a moment to catch my breath." "Ok, so what happened? You didn't come back for dinner last night and you didn't call I was worried sick about you." I wasn't able to keep my anger completely out of my tone. "I do not know what you are talking about, nothing happened." "Come on, this is me. We both know you've been annoyed at me because I preferred staying at the cabin to coming on this treks with you, but maybe you can have the decency of telling me what's wrong instead of letting me squirm or giving me this cool treatment." "I truly apologize for not treating you properly," he said looking me over hungrily, "I do not know what could have come over me to mistreat someone like you such, but I can promise that it will not happen again." "You sure you're ok?" I asked because he was really speaking weird. I still couldn't help puffing up my chest at the look and compliment. "I can assure you that I am quite well." "Good, then how about we take care of my problem and then head back?" "There is something I need to show you before hand," Walter said as he turned and headed up the mountain. I stood there for a moment too surprised to move. What could be more important than taking care of my balls? "Walter, wait up!" I started after him as well as I could on the rock side and with hurting balls. He didn't slow down. I watched him enter an opening in the rock. The crevice wasn't too big; I had to turn sideways in place to fit. I caught up to him at the entrance of a cave lit by fire light. "Go in," he said, "I am certain you will find it wondrous." I eyed him dubiously. I didn't see what could be so wonderful about a cave, but went in anyway. At first glance it wasn't impressive, it was pretty big, but that was about it. "What's supposed to be so wonderful about this?" I asked still looking around. "Go further along the back, you will see it." I rolled my eyes, maybe he was doing that to keep punishing me. Or maybe he had a bed set up in the back? The first thing that caught my eye was a set of chains set in the rock wall. I grabbed one and gave it a tug it was solidly anchored in there. "How long do you think these have been there?" I asked just as I noticed the skeleton on the ground next to them. "Are these things real?" I bent down to pick up one of the bone. "Oh, quite real." I turned to look at Walter just in time to see him swing something large at my head. I went down seeing stars. I tried to stand up with a groan, but he hit me again and things went dark. I remember a lot of flashes of consciousness, always followed by stars and then darkness. The last few also came with pain in my right arm. When I finally woke fully it was with a groan that made my head hurt. Being shot in the head hadn't hurt this badly. "Good, you are finally awake," Walter said, "You must look at this, it is simply wondrous." Getting my eyes to open took more work than I could have guessed; my eyelids felt like they had hundred pounds weights attached to them. And when they did open it didn't help much. Everything was moving around. I closed them before I threw up. Once my stomach settled I tried again, this time they were lighter and the world stood still. I was able to lift my head and Walter was standing in front of me, but there was something wrong with him, there was something orange and black over his right arm. "What happened Walter?" I asked, having trouble stringing the words together. "Is this not simply wondrous?" he asked me, shoving his orange and black covered arm. It moved too quickly and my eyes wouldn't focus on it. "Walter! What the *fuck* happened!" I don't think I'd ever yelled that loud ever. Walter backpedaled while the echo bounced off the walls for a few seconds. I groaned as my head kept on ringing for a few more. "My, my, what powerful lungs you must have to yell like that. Your roar must be magnificent. I cannot wait to find out what it must be like to roar." "You're not making any sense," I said as my head dropped. "I must say that while you certainly are a captive audience," he chuckled lightly, "you are not the most astute one I have had." "So sue me. Just tell me what's going on." "Why would I want to bring in a lawyer into this? They are a despicable breed which I doubt time has improved." I took deep breath in the following silence trying to clear my head. Walter wasn't acting like himself, maybe he'd hit his head or something, although that didn't explain what ever was on his arm. I don't know why it didn't occurred to me before that, but I only then tried to move, to find my arms were chained. I was chained to the wall. I looked at the iron manacle on my left wrist and the solid chain holding me. When I check my right wrist I found that something else was wrong. There was no orange and black fur, and there was, was this dark red masses that wriggled as I pulled on the chain. I've never denied being among the slowest to catch a clue, but as I looked back to Walter I did get it. He was wearing my fur on his right arm. "I see that you are understanding the situation," he said with a smile, "I must say that this is a most wondrous chance, I have never played the Beast before; although I did play Belle in my youth. The actor who played the Beast was quite dreadful, he ruined the show for all of us. He could never be menacing. I will show them all how the role should be played. I will be a monstrous Beast, as he should have been." "Walter, what are you talking about, and what are you doing with my fur." I just wanted to scream at him to start make sense, but I didn't think my head would survive another outburst. Walter stopped moving about and looked at himself. "Ah, yes, I must not get ahead of myself, I am still wearing my previous role." He looked in a darkened corner before walking to me. He pulled out a dirty knife. "I am afraid this will hurt, but please roar with the pain, I wish to know what the proper timbre is for it." I looked at his green eyes and as the wrongness of them hit me he started slicing the fur off my shoulder off. I grated my teeth, who ever that was I didn't want to give him the satisfaction to hear me scream, but I only lasted a couple of seconds of moaning before the pain became too much. "I do wish you had roared instead," the sadist who looked like Walter said, "but you will have many more occasions to do so." Panting I forced myself to look at him. He applied the patch of fur on his shoulder and it melded to the fur that was already there. I noticed that it didn't stick to his skin, instead it floated above it, keeping the shape of my muscles. "I have never had such an easy time putting on a skin before," he said with glee, "I also have never worn one that could heal itself." He ran the knife over his arm, leaving a bloody gash that closed moments later. I had to look away. I didn't feel any of the pain from that, but it still looked like it was my arm getting cut. I saw a human form leaning against the wall in the corner I happen to look in. Even in the bad light I could tell there was something wrong with it. The body was uniformly dark, the light barely reflected on it and it was staring ahead with dead steel grey eyes. "Oh my Gods," I let out quietly. "Ah yes, him," the Walter lookalike said. "I must say that he was not the participating audience that you are. He must have died before I was even halfway done." I stared at him. I couldn't believe how casual he was about this. "You murdered him you son of a bitch!" I pulled on my chains as hard as I could. "I did no such thing," the impostor said offended, "I simply took over his role. Regardless he was a bad actor. I could tell that he was hardly doing anything with his part." "He was a person," I growled with another pull, I thought I felt it give a little. "He was someone I cared about." "He was the Belle to your Beast?" he said with surprise, but then his face turn to disgust. "That is sick. Everyone knows Belle is played by a woman." He turned and walked away. "I will have to find a woman to play my Belle. That could prove to be a challenge, there are not many woman around here. Tell me," he said facing me again, "how were you able to attract your Belle?" He pointed dismissively to Walter's corpse. For a moment I literally saw red but I forced myself to calm down, I'd only have one shot and I had to think clearly to make it count. "Come here and I'll tell you." He didn't even hesitate and as he stood before me I pulled on my chain and broke it from the wall. My fist landed on his shoulder hard enough to crumble him to the ground. I turned and wrapped the other chain around my hand, doing my best to ignore my skinless hand, and gave a hard pull. I tumbled back with the ease with which the anchor gave out. "You need to know your role," he said nursing his fur covered shoulder, "you are the helpless prisoner, not the hero." "I'm rewriting the script," I spat and lounged at him. "Ah!" he stepped out of my way. "Scripts are for hacks. The real actor knows his character through and through. He does not need a piece of paper to tell him what he should be doing." "Fine," I said as I turned to face him, "since you're the monster in this act of yours what do you think's going to happen?" He gave me the most sincere smile I'd seen. "Why, the monster kills the hero of course." He rushed me and punched me in the stomach before I could react. He punched me with his right fist, my right fist, and I flew off the floor to hit the wall. I was as surprised as he was. By the time I was able to pull myself up he was still staring at his fist. I didn't give him time to stop. I tackled him and punched him as hard as I could until he wasn't moving anymore. When I stopped his face wasn't recognizable as Walter anymore. I stood and my anger flared again when I looked at him. I kicked him and he went flying in the darkness. I had to force myself to turn and look at Walter's corpse. I had trouble breathing as walked to it. I fell to my knees before him. "I'm so sorry," I told him as he looked at me accusingly. "I should never have dragged you here. It's all my fault.
  6. Kindar

    Chapter 09

    After three days Seth had a working prototype. The hardware for it filled the entire unused bedroom, I had to stand on a platform, and not move from it, but it worked. It created an image around me that moved as I did. It wasn't what I had expected. Seth said he'd be able to fix the size problem. Seth hadn't said anything when he realized we weren't using the second guest bedroom. When I'd brought our stuff in I put Walter's there, but he wouldn't have anything to do with the idea of sleeping in separate rooms. "No fucking way I'm going to be sneaking around while I'm here," he said. "Be reasonable, we're his guest. We can't go around offending him." "I don't fucking care if he can't deal with it. I'm not going to act like the guy you're trying to hide from your parents." "Alright, alright," I felt he was trying to get a Seth to throw us out or something. It didn't work. Either he was too stoned or busy with the work to notice, or having lived through the free love movement he just didn't care. Walter only brought three suits with him; the alpha wolf, the submissive fox and the playful Dalmatian. That first night he put on the wolf suit and put me in my place. He slept in the suit, holding me tightly and the next morning he took me again. He didn't asked, he just turned me on my stomach and fucked me. He used the wolf suit more than the others. I could tell he was doing it because he was angry at being here, but I couldn't figure out why. He also wouldn't tell me what was wrong, even once it was obvious Seth wasn't trying to string me along. We fell into a routine of sex in the morning, breakfast and then Walter would drive to 'town'. He'd come back for dinner we'd hang out, have sex again and go to sleep. While Walter was out I'd jog around in the woods, or chop firewood for Seth, even cutting down a tree when I ran out. I also toked up a time or two; Seth left me his box of joints. Seth would get up even before us and get right to work. At ten I'd get him to smoke so he could eat, again for dinner and then so he could sleep. When he wasn't stoned he was either in his workroom designing a component or in the bedroom assembling it. His basement was full of parts, it looked like a hardware store on steroid. If he couldn't find what he needed he ordered it. After two weeks he'd managed to shrink it down to half the size of the room. "You know, this isn't exactly how I thought you'd be doing this," I told him over lunch. "I thought you'd whip up something in half a day and be done." "That's not how I worded my wish," he replied, " 'I wish I was able to build stuff and make them better.' That's what I said. So I have to start with building something I'm already able to and then I can take it apart and see how to make it better." "You still remember the wish you made?" I asked, impressed. "You don't forget something that changes your life like that. One day I'm a failed mechanic trying to get drunk at the local bar and wishing I could fix stuff, the next day I'm taking my Boss' car apart and rebuilding it with better struts, better gas millage lower emissions an tons of other improvements. "He sold my designs to car manufacturers and then asked me to keep making more. I didn't know how to stop so I did that for ten years, until the wish catchers found me." "What happened after that?" "They helped me get my wish under control." He lifted the joint he was smoking. "Then I lived for a while before going back to work for them. I was there for a decade or so then I had enough and came here." "They let you go? Just like that?" "Well, they tried to convince me to stay, offered me more money, better labs, but once I made it clear I didn't want any of that they let me go." "Just like that, no threats to you or your family if you didn't work for them, no blackmail no incarceration?" "Course not," Seth said with a chuckle, "just a few exec every few month dropping by with a suitcase filled with money and something they wanted me to build. It took them six years to finally get the message that I was never going to say yes. "I mean really, what am I going to do with more money than I already have?" "Did you ever regret doing it?" "Making the wish?" I nodded. "No," he answered after thinking about it for a moment. "I never really did. I don't think any of us ever does." "You've met other people like us." "I've worked for the organization in charge of stopping us from blowing up the world, so yeah, you're not the first Wisher I've met. Everyone of them liked what they were. Sometime they liked too much." "I don't think I'm liking it all that much." "You're still new at this, give it time and you'll probably find that's what you've always wanted." Two weeks later it was the size of a backpack. "Did you guys know that tourists have been disappearing around here for the last decade?" Walter asked over dinner. He hadn't really warmed up to Seth, but at least he was engaging in conversation and getting the groceries. "Hikers have been over estimating their abilities for a lot more than a decade," Seth said before biting into his burger. I'd gotten tired of the frozen pizza or noodle and sauce mixes that were Seth mainstay so I'd gotten Walter to pickup all we needed for burgers and I set up a grill to cook them. "Maybe but there's be a lot more in the last decade than before, almost a hundred on this side of the mountain alone." "That does sound like a lot," I said between bites and Seth nodded in agreement. "Have you ever helped look for any of them?" "No, I let the Rangers deal with that. I'm sure you've realized by now that I don't really leave this place." Walter was silent for the rest of the meal. Once we were back in our room he put on his fox suit and submitted to me. It was an evening of slow lovemaking. "I think we should help look for her," Walter said as we snuggled afterward. "Look for who?" "A hiker went missing not far from here a few days ago." "I don't think the rescue teams are going to be really happy to see someone like me among them." Even tired and in the afterglow I could still see where he was going. "They're short of man power so they aren't so much teams, more like groups and couples. We don't have to do it with them. We can go just the two of us you can sniff around and maybe we'll get lucky." I started chuckling as the thought of getting lucky in the woods with Walter bounced in my head. "Ok," I said once I calmed down, "I'll check in with Seth in the morning." Walter tensed. "We don't need to run what we do by him." "I have to. He needs me to help him snap out of it so he can eat." Walter didn't acknowledge what I'd said. "Walter," I said softly, "these wishes aren't fairytales. They come with problems. I need sex because of them and Seth's wish came with an obsession to build things. If he's not stoned all he does is build. He won't eat or sleep until he falls unconscious from exhaustion. I have to let him know so we can change the schedule to give us enough time to search." "Ok. Jim, I . . ." "Yes?" "Never mind," he said with a shake of the head, "it isn't important." I kissed the back of his neck even if he probably couldn't feel it though the suit. "Ok, sleep well." * * * * * "Is it lunch time already?" Seth asked after smoking his first join. "No, more like breakfast. Me and Walter are going to go out to help with the search. We're going to be back for dinner." "Are you sure that's wise? If one of the rescue parties sees you it could start a bigfoot hunt." "We'll be careful. I think Walter just wants to do something useful instead of waiting for you to be done." "Then I better keep working while you guys are out." "Are you going to be ok?" "Yeah. I'll eat now, that should keep me going until you get back." "We'll see you tonight then." * * * * * "Ok, this looks right," Walter said as looked around. It had taken most of the morning walking through the woods to reach the path. We could have been there sooner, but we, ahem, took our time getting there. "This is about where she was seen for the last time by another hiker." "So what do we do?" "Well, I was hoping you'd be able to sniff out where she went." "I'm pretty sure I need to know what she smells like," I said with a chuckle. I still sniff the air. I could differentiate between human and animal smells now, but not individual humans, except for me and Walter, and maybe Seth, I might be able to track him if I had to. "I hadn't thought of that," Walter said dejected. "Hey, it doesn't mean we can't look for her," I said giving him a hug, "it just means you can't use me as your own personal bloodhound." That cheered him up. We left the trails for the rangers and other search parties and searched deeper in the woods. Walter was serious about the search, but I was having more fun frolicking around with him and avoiding people. And he didn't protest too much to the Frolicking. We did that for more than a week before I got bored with it. I encouraged Walter to continue since it made him feel like he was doing something useful. "Are you sure you don't want to come?" he asked me the next morning after I made my decision. "Yeah, I'm not exactly having fun doing that anymore." "It isn't about having fun Jim. A woman's missing and we're trying to find her." "And you can still do that, just without me. It's not like I'm all that useful out there. Hell, without me you'll be able to join the official search parties." I could see the disappointment in his eyes, but he did go, and kept going every morning, to return sometime after dinner. Seth continued to make progress, but it was slowing down. The further ahead the technology became the more work it took. On the fourth day after Walter started searching on his own he didn't come back. I didn't worry too much as cleaned the dishes, he could have gotten delayed on his way back, but as the sky turned dark I did worry. Walter would have called if something had happened to prevent him from coming back, he had Seth's number. I spent the night pacing and sleeping on his fits. As soon as Seth got up I shoved a lit joint in his mouth. "Walter didn't come back last night," I said as soon as he was able to focus on me, "I'm going out to look for him." "I'm sure he's ok, he probably searched too late and had to go back to town with the others." "He would have called; something wrong." I went to our room and buried my nose in his wolf suit. I knew I could pick out his smell out of anything by now, but I wanted to make sure it was fresh in my mind. "I'll be back once I find him," I said as I left his cabin. I could already feel the ghost of blue balls starting. Following his trail to the path was easy, his smell was strong since he always took the same route. Once there things became a little more complicated His scent went in all directions. I knew it well enough now that I could make out slight variation in strength so I used that to try to determine which trail was the most recent, I had a few false start, but on the third time I had what I thought was the freshest one. I followed it up the mountain for an hour, the wood thinned out and the ground became rocky. My heart skipped with joy when I saw him standing on the escarpment.
  7. Kindar

    Chapter 08

    Getting to Stampton, Colorado took two weeks. The first week was for preparation. Walter bought a three year old Caravan. He had his mechanic tune it up, remove the middle row so I'd be able to sit down and tint the windows so I wouldn't have to worry about being seen. Yeah, Walter volunteered himself to drive me to Stampton, for which I was grateful. I had no idea how I was going to convince him to do it. Wilma said he just wasn't willing to let me get away. We bought supplies and tried to work out where Seth's house was, unfortunately Stampton wasn't so much a town as a collection of buildings spread over twenty square miles. There were no up to date maps anywhere online, even Google didn't have anything more than the two major roads going through the area. The other week was spent driving, and getting lost. The GPS was no use what so ever since we couldn't put the address in, and even using it to get to the closest town got us turned around more often than not. I'm a public transit kind of guy, I don't even have my license and Walter hadn't driven outside the city before now. When we did get to Stampton itself we discovered why Google didn't have any of the road's names. They didn't have any. When Walter asked for directions he'd get something like 'drive a few miles and then make a left at the old oak tree' or, 'drive past Jensen's cottage and make a right up the hill, you can't miss it'. Or course we missed it. We spent half the day driving around before finally getting to Seth's house. I have to say it wasn't a bad drive, the trees were magnificent. Like I said I'd never been out of the city before and city parks had noting on this. The trees were so dense they formed a wall on each side of the road. I'd never seen so many different kinds of greens and browns. We even saw a few deer and a bear. Seth's place was a log cabin, a large log cabin, built up along the slope of the mountain. Walter stopped the Caravan behind an old Ford at the bottom of the stairs heading up to the cabin. Before the car was turned off a man came out and down the stairs. The only thing I could think of as I watched him was hippy. He had long gray hair with a multicolor headband keeping it out of his thin face. He was wearing a deer skin jacket and pants. "Hey man, you lost or something?" he said as he reach the bottom. "Not anymore," Walter replied, "are you Seth Burnsteng?" "Yeah, That'd be me, why're you asking?" "A friend of mine wants to talk with you." I took a deep breath and stepped out of the car. "Whoa, that's a gnarly look," Seth said, "How'd you get it?" "I made a wish," I answered. The smell of marijuana hung heavily around him. "That's cool, made one too, a long time ago. I try not to make them anymore. Come on up," he said as he started up the stairs, "I got sometime in the oven." Walter cast a glance at me and I shrugged. I hadn't known what to expect, but an invitation to dinner hadn't really been it. Seth's cabin was clean; certainly not what I expected from a pot head. In front of the large bay window was a table with a large variety of plants, tomatoes, strawberries lettuce and I was pretty sure I recognized at two marijuana plants. There was a clean ashtray on a corner of the table, and no spilled dirt anywhere on it or around it. Wood was neatly stacked next to the stone fireplace. A couch and two chairs were arranged around a coffee table which also had a clean ashtray. Seth took a joint from a pocket and lit it. "You guys wanna drag?" "No thanks," I replied. I smoked once in a while, but right now I felt I needed to keep a clear head. "Certainly not," Walter answered. He was rather straight laced when it came to smoking. "You're high, aren't you?" "Hell yeah, only way I can hear myself think." He started chuckling as he headed to the other room. I followed him in the kitchen where he was pulling a baking pan with a dozen mini pizzas on it out of the over. "Help yourself to them," he said as he stacked half of them on a plate and devouring the first one before I moved. "Where's the power coming from?" I asked as I took a pizza. The stove and fridges were electric and I hadn't seen any electrical towers on the way here. "I got a generator in the back. You wanna something to drink?" He opened the fridge. "I have water, water and some more water." "Water sounds good," I said. "You must go through a lot of gas if it's the only source of power you have." "Don't use gas," Seth said as he took three glasses out of a cabinet, "It's nuclear." "Isn't having a nuclear reactor a rather dangerous thing?" Walter asked from the doorway. I'd explained to him that Seth was some sort of super inventor and he must have taken it more seriously then I had because he didn't show any surprise at the news. "Nah, fusion's perfectly safe." Seth filled the glasses and handed one of them to me. "Wait, you have a fusion reactor in the back of your cabin?" "Yeah, I built it, twenty years ago I think." He lit up another joint. "Then why don't we have anything that's run by fusion?" Walter asked. I realized that his lack of surprise might not be because he believed him, but rather because he didn't. "Because whoever I gave the plant to would have a lot of power and I don't trust people to use that power well. That's why I live here. I got tired of being asked to build stuff that gave some form of power or another to people." He looked at me sadly. "You're here to ask me to make you something aren't you?" "Yeah, I need something to hide the way I look." "That's it?" he asked in surprise, "No super weapon to stop wars, no devise to end world hunger? Just a gizmo so you can look normal?" I nodded. "I can do that," Seth said as he extinguished his joint, "I'll start on it once I've sobered up." Walter indicated I should follow him and we went outside. "Are you sure you can trust him?" he asked. "He seems like an ok guy." "That's not what I mean, the guy claims to have a fusion reactor. Do you know what'd do if I could build one of those? I'd sell the rights and retire. I think he's a fake, hell we already know he's a junky." "I was incarcerated behind a force field he built, I believe him about the reactor. We can ask him to show it to us if that'll convince you. As for why he hasn't sold it and made millions. You heard him, he doesn't trust people. Not everyone's driven by money you know." "Ok, but what if he calls the people who are after you, he used to work for them, remember?" I did, and it did worry me a little, but what else could I do? "I don't have a choice. He's the only person who can give me a normal life." I could tell Walter wasn't really satisfied, but he dropped it. I went back inside and found Seth in a workroom on the second floor. He was unrolling paper over a drafting table. The room was as orderly as the kitchen and living room. The tools were in their place, there was no dust anywhere and, I also noticed, no ashtrays. When he noticed me in the doorway Seth handed me a joint. "I appreciate the offer," I told him, "but I really don't think I should be lighting up." "It isn't for you. That's for me. No matter what I'm doing at ten you light it up and get me to smoke it." "Why?" "Because I'm going to work myself to death on your gizmo if I don't force myself to stop once in a while. That's going to cloud my head just enough to I can think about other stuff, like sleep and food." "How long until you start to work?" "It'll probably be a couple of hours until I'm down. There two bedrooms at the end of the hall you can use." "Thanks. While you wait to sober up do you mind showing us your reactor? Walter's curious about it." "Who's Walter?" "My friend. I'm Jim by the way." "I'm Seth," he said presenting his hand, "and yeah I can so it to you." The reactor turned out to be rather unimpressive, at least the five feet we could see. Seth explained that most of it was buried about fifty feet down. What was exposed was a cylinder about ten feet in diameter with readouts and controls on it. It looked high-tech; that's about all I got from it. "I expected a fusion reactor to be bigger," Walter commented. "I don't need that much power," Seth answered with a chuckle before taking a granola bar out of his pocket. "It's got the fusion chamber, the turbine, water circulation and scrubbing system and capacitors. It also has a regulation system so I won't blow up my appliances." "How do you change the fuel rods?" Walter asked. "Man, it's fusion. I'm not going to have to refuel it for another fifty years or so." "Fine, and how are you going to do that when it happens." "Walter," I said as I grabbed his arm, "there's no need to interrogate him." "Actually I think there is, I haven't actually seen anything really special. For all I know he's just a fake." "It's ok man," Seth said as he folded the wrapping of his finished granola bar, "I don't need to convince him of anything. I know what I can do, that's all that matters. And whenever I need to change the core I'll just shut it down, give it a week to cool down and then build something to take it out." "Leave it alone Walter. I'm the one who needs his help, not you. I don't need any convincing that he can help me." "Fine, I'll be at the car," he said. He wasn't happy about it, I could see it in his eyes. "I'm sorry about that," I told Seth once Walter was out of sight, "I don't know why he was so hard." "S'ok man, Dealing with us Wishers isn't easy on those who aren't used to it. Hasn't been long since you made yours, has it?" "Only a few weeks, you?" "I don't know, what year is this?" He took out a pocket watch. "Already? Man it's been over fifty years now." "You lost track of time?" "Yeah, it's easy to do up here living on your own. I'm going to go throw something in the oven, you hungry?" "I'm ok, thanks. I'm going to go look in on Walter and bring some stuff to the rooms." * * * * * Walter was sitting in the car watching me come down the steps. He didn't get out, or even lower the window when I stood next to it. I knocked on it and he took his time lowering it. "You ok?" I asked him. "Course I'm ok," he answered bluntly. "I'm not the most enlightened guy around, but I can tell you're not. What's the problem?" "How can you just trust this guy, we don't know anything about him?" "I don't have much of a choice, he's the only one who can give me a normal life." He looked away from me when I said that. "That's why we shouldn't trust him," he said when he looked at me again. His features were set to neutral, but I knew him well enough to smell the hurt coming from him, but I had no idea what it was about. "You're in a perfect situation to be taken advantage of." "Seth hasn't even asked for anything. He's a nice guy." "No one's that nice," Walter grumbled, "Look you said it yourself, he's worked for the people who are after you. He's probably planning on stringing you along until they get here. I think we should go back home." I studied him for a moment. "Where is *that* coming from?" "I don't know," he answered with a shrug, "I'm just getting a bad feeling about this." I reached through the window and placed my hand on his arm. "Lets give him a few days, if it looks like he's trying to waste out time then we'll leave." "All right," he said with some reluctance.
  8. Kindar

    Chapter 05

    I hesitated in front of the door. It was glossy white, freshly painted like the porch. It was one thing to believe my friends would be ok with the way I looked; it was another one completely to put it to the test. I steeled myself and knocked. There was silence. I prayed that they were home and knocked again. "Hold on to your fucking horses," came a Wilma's voices from somewhere deeper in the house. The door opened. "Ok, what's you want?" Wilma was a small woman at five-four. I never used 'petite' to describe her be cause she had quite the set of curves on her body. Her blond hair was tied back in a pony tail, she didn't have any make up on as usual. She was wearing an old faded t-shirt, pink with an arrow on it pointing up 'my eyes are up there' was written underneath. I'd gotten her the shirt two years ago for her birthday, she always like showing off her breast so I figured it would help her play on that. I'd accidently picked one that was a size too small. She'd never complained about it. Purple sweat pants completed her ensemble, except for the cherry lollipop she was holding in her hand. "It's me, Jim. Can I come in? She looked at me for a moment. "Jim Benton?" I nodded and she moved away from the door with a surprised expression. I quickly stepped in, in case she changed her mind and closed the door on me. I closed it behind me. Wilma and Walter owned the house together. They were brother and sister, twins actually. I'd known them for almost ten years now, not long after I'd discovered he furry community. They had been the first furries I'd come across on the net who turned out to be local to me. Wilma looked me over and her expression slowly turned from surprised to suspicious, but before she could say anything Walter poked his head in the entryway. "Who was that sis?" He asked before even looking in, and then "Whoa, cool fursuit." While these two were twins, they looked nothing alike. Where Wilma was small and full of curves, Walter was a good six inch taller and very angular. Her voice was sweet and his usually sounded like his throat was full of sand paper. He was gay, she wasn't. About the only things they had in common where the blond hair, although his was curly, and steel grey eyes. I looked at Wilma, "I'll explain later," and walked to Walter, throwing him over my shoulder and heading directly to his bedroom. * * * * * I was looking at the ceiling, completely awake. Only two hours of sleep after our marathon session and I was fully rested. Chock another one to my increased healing I guess. I carefully untangled myself from Walter and went to the attached bathroom. He kept on sleeping soundly as I moved from under him. Walter had taken no time to get over the realization I wasn't wearing a fursuit. He had a thing for fursuits, in fact he couldn't have sex if one wasn't involved. I'd hoped that realizing I was the real thing would push his buttons, and I hadn't been disappointed. My need for sex had been dealt with after the first time, but my desire hadn't, which was a good thing because he wasn't going to let me rest until he'd explored every part of my new body. I locked the other door, the one leading to his sister's bedroom, and got in the shower. I went through almost all of his shampoo in the process and had to use a comb to tease the dried cum out of my fur. I had suspected I had more stamina now, as well as a faster recharge, but I'd never known that Walter could cum so often. Those previous times when we'd have sex we'd cum once and we were both done. This time it happened so often that I lost track. I had to clean my fur out of the drain three times during my shower to prevent the water from overflowing the lip. One more thing I'd have to get used to, although since I had a bath/shower at home I could let the water rise until I was done. Drying myself I went through all the towels in their linen closet. I was going to have to invest in some heavy duty blow dryers when I got back home. My chain of thought derailed. *If* I got back home. For a moment I'd forgotten that I was on the run from a secret government agency bent on throwing me in a cell and forgetting about me. As real as I knew it was, I still felt like I was in a bad sci-fi movie. Once I was dry I piled up the towels and got dressed. Walter slept through it, even when I bumped into the dresser and left two inches long skid marks on the wood floor. I rubbed one of them with my foot, barely feeling the scoring in the varnish through my thick pad. I'd deal with that once Walter was awake, maybe offer to pay to get it fixed. I didn't expect him to make a big deal of it, but I was still going to offer. I grabbed the towels and headed to their laundry room in the basement. Wilma wasn't in the living room or kitchen as I came down the stairs. I wondered if she's gone out. I could smell her in the room as well as the nuances in her smell, but I had no idea what those meant. I went down the other set of stairs and caught the sound of her breathing. Half the basement was her training room, which consisted of the floor being covered by mats. I saw her eyes turned in my direction as I reached the floor, but she didn't stop going through the movements. I admired her focus. I don't think I could have kept on doing what I was doing if something as freaky as me walked into the same room. I went to the other side of the room, where the washer was and dumped the towels in it. I started it and looked for the soap while it filled. After that I considered going back up, but I still owed Wilma an explanation. I sat down on the floor and leaned back against the washer as I waited for her to finish. She didn't hurry on my account. It was thirty minutes before she came to a gentle stop. "So I didn't imagine you," she said as she stood still, eyes closed. I shook my head. "No," I then added. "I'm sorry for barging in like that, but I'm in a bit of a bad spot and you were the only ones I could think of who might help." "You mean Walter," her voice was colder than I'd ever heard it, "if I hadn't been surprised I'd have thrown you right out." I nodded and looked at the floor. She was right; as strong as I am she could have sent me flying out that door without much effort. She was a black belt in Tea-Kon-do. My ears heated up in shame and splayed against my skull. "I'm sorry." "It's too late now. It's obvious Walt digs you." "I'm sorry," I said again. "Stop saying you're sorry Jim," She sounded annoyed now. "It's obvious you needed to take care of it, and it's not like I'm your type." I thought I heard her smile at that and looked up. She was wearing her Gi now, loosely tied so that the opening showed the curve of her breasts. She wasn't doing that for me. She probably didn't even realize she was showing herself off like that; or this being Wilma, maybe she did, even if she knew it had no effect on me. "What happened to you?" she asked, looking straight at me. I gave her a quick rundown; the wish, waking up like that, the police, waking up in the cell, escaping. I even mentioned the blue balls. She looked at me without saying anything. "I know," I added, "sounds like the plot to a bad movie." "So that was you this morning," she said instead. "Me where?" "There was something on TV this morning about a group of robber with one of them in a fursuit." I leaned my head back against the washer just as it buzzed and stopped shaking. "So now I'm a thief too." "If they're a secret organization, they can't just come out and say what really happened. Come on, cheer up, you're the only furry I know who's gotten his wish and become a real one. You had to know there was going to be repercussions." "I didn't know it was going to come real," there was only a small amount of anger behind my voice, over all I really did enjoy what I'd become. "If I'd known what would happen I'd have been a bit more careful." She grinned at me. "You an over-sexed furry? Who'd have thunk it." "Very funny," I said dryly. "Come on, it isn't so bad anymore, is it? Walter's going to be happy to help keep you libido down. You're a dream come true for him. After what you two've been up to you must be hungry. Throw the towels in the dryer. I'll be in the kitchen. Oh, are you purely carnivorous now?" "I don't know." My stomach growled loudly and I realized that with everything that had happened, I hadn't eaten anything since getting up in the morning. Even with all the stress, how had I managed to go more than 24 hours without even feeling hungry? "We'll have you try a few things and see how you react to them." After that she went up the stairs.
  9. Kindar

    Chapter 01

    "Wait," Pat said as the waitress put our coffees on the table, "I thought we said only three wishes." Jess looked at him as he reached for the sugar. "That was only three, honey." He raised a finger. "I'd want to be able to turn into a gorgeous woman." A second finger. "As her I'd have a wondrous voice; so that when I spoke everyone would listen." A third finger. "And when I'd sing my voice would be so beautiful it would make men and women alike cry with joy." Jess could already do a pretty good looking woman, he constantly came third or fourth the drag queen competitions, I guess it weighed on him more than he let on. And his woman's voice wasn't that bad either, although it came across more like that old aunt of yours who spent her entire life smoking rather than a diva. "How about that part about having the straight guys fall in love with you?" Pat asked as he poured three of the creamer container in his cup. Pat was a radio tech; he was the one who made the morning crew's show so fun to listen to. He was also a gear head. His basement had more electronic parts than the radio station he worked for had ever owned, and while he never admitted it to anyone, even us, I was pretty sure he was the pirate broadcaster the local stations kept complaining about. Jess smiled at him his sweetest smile, the one that even without makeup made him look more like a woman then a man. "That wasn't a wish dear, just a side effect of the body and the voice." He took a long sip of his coffee while piercing Pat with a gaze. "What are your wishes dear? Lets see if you enjoy having me poking holes through them as much as you seem to liked doing it to me." Pat nodded, "so, nothing like wishing for world peace, right?" "Yep," Answered Mike leaning back in the corner of the booth. He took a quick sip of his coffee; he drank it black, like me. "They have to be completely selfish wishes, only for you." "Ok, I'd want to be rich." Jess raised a thin eyebrow. "That's creative." Pat shrugged, "this isn't a creativity contest, it's just us wishing." "How rich?" Harry asked while Pat and Jess silently stared each other down. "Huh?" was Pat's only response as he broke the staring contest. "How much money is rich?" Harry asked the question slowly, as if he was still trying to formulate it as he asked it. Which might not be too far from the truth; Harry wasn't the smartest person at the table. He couldn't hide that he was a jock. In fact his nickname from the other football player his team in college was 'Harry har har' because they could tell jokes at his expense and be certain he wouldn't get them. Neither one of us really looked like he fitted with the other three, but for completely opposite reasons. Maybe that was why we were both sitting at the end of the table, ready to make a quick escape if our presence became too much for the others to bear. Harry weighed at least forty pounds more than I did, but he was almost pure muscle while I . . . wasn't. "Harry's right," said Mike, "Father Fred would happily argue that just by knowing the four of us you're already richer than anyone. How much money would you need to consider yourself rich?" Pat looked surprised at the question. He thought about it while he finished his coffee. "A hundred million," he then stated. "That doesn't sound like all that much," Jess said, to which Pat simply shrugged. He didn't reply, instead looking at Harry. Harry's face was scrunched in concentration as he tried to figure out how much money that was. Math certainly wasn't his strength, in fact it wasn't even on the list of what his strength was, but he'd get there eventually, and we gave him as much time as he needed to make it. He finally looked at Pat eyes wide in surprise. "Wow, that's a lot of money." Pat smiled, "well, it's enough. Even in this current economy I could get a four percent return on it, so that's four million a year to live off. Yeah, I think that would be enough. Oh, and no hidden clause about the money being stolen or anything like that. It's all legal." Jess looked at Mike, "What do you think, honey, is that a second wish?" Mike shook his head and signaled their waitress for a refill. "Nah, it's a conditional added to the first wish, just like people crying when they hear you sing." Jess nodded, satisfied. "Next wish?" "I'd want to understand machines, be able to know how they work and what's wrong with them with only a look." He stopped and his face lit up. "Scratch that. I want to be able to talk with machines of all kind, talk and have them respond to me and me only and get them to do what ever I want." "Woh there," Mike exclaimed raising a hand. "I'm willing to grand you the revision of your wish, but that's a hell of a lot more than just a conditional. You can either talk to machines of have them obey you. Not both." Yeah, Mike was the lawyer of the group, bar accredited and all that. Pat shrugged, "ok then my second wish is that I talk to machines and they respond, and my third is that they obey me. Your turn." "Easy. I'd be Superman." On top of being pretty smart and a lawyer, Mike was a comic book geek. "no no no, you can't wish that." Jess exclaimed. "Yeah," Pat agreed, "your boyfriend's right. If you didn't let me put talking and controlling in one wish, there's no way you can get everything superman does in one either." "Ok, ok." Mike said with a smile, "Then I'd be invulnerable and super strong." "What's the third one?" Pat asked. "I'd be super handsome." He struck a pose, straightening up, fists on his sides and a wide smile showing his white teeth. It didn't have quite the effect it has on comicbook covers since he was still sitting down. While the rest of us shook our heads and tried not to laugh, even Harry though that was pretty absurd since Mike was already a pretty good looking guy, Jess mimed a ray of light hitting mike's teeth and then said "bling," splaying his finger as if the light was reflecting off it. "Brendan Fraser," I said without even thinking, "As DJ in Loony tunes, back in action." Pat groaned "God that was a bad movie." "It wasn't that bad," I said. "I liked it." Harry Agreed. Pat smiled sweetly at the jock, "you would, it was right at your level." Jess threw Pat a warning glare, which he ignored, while Harry nodded in agreement with Pat. Jess didn't have to bother with it since he knew as well as the rest of us Pat would never intentionally hurt Harry. These two were a pretty serious item for a while. That was actually how the four of them had first met Harry. We'd gone to the football state championship, not really because we'd really cared about it, but because it was held at our school, and the dean made it clear those who didn't go and support our team wouldn't like the consequences. I actually enjoyed the game. It was one of those guilty pleasures I'd normally allow myself when alone, watching a sport game and wondering what my life would have been like if I'd been a jock instead of an overweight geek. Our team did win, so everyone went celebrating, which meant the school grounds were deserted. We used the opportunity to enjoy one of our favorite spot in peace for ones. It was the outdoor eating area just off the lunchroom. We'd meet up there everyday to eat together and talk about what ever we felt like talking. So that's where we were when this almost six foot six jock came walking toward us with a hand behind his back. We'd never been bothered by anyone because we were gay before. We kept mainly to ourselves, not that we were outcast, but we'd never felt a need to force others to socialize with us so we had a small circle of straight friends, but most of the time it was just he four of us. The tension went up the closer he got. It didn't take long for us to recognize him, The star quarterback's face was plastered all over the place, especially after it was revealed that he'd been drafted by a professional team. I have to say that the first thing that popped in my head was that he was here to get some cheap thrill by beating up a bunch of fags to add to his victory. So you can imagine my surprise when he presented Pat a bouquet of flowers. They were field flowers, he'd picked them on his way. He'd been trying to work up the courage to approach Pat for months now and the high from the victory had been what finally gave him the confidence to do it. They were together for almost three years, and then things cooled down and eventually they broke up. Neither ever said why, but we suspected it had a lot to do with Harry being constantly on the road, but after that they were just best friends, with benefits. "What would you wish for Harry?" Jess asked. "I'd wish to be smart," Harry answered immediately, "Really smart. Smarter than the four of you . . . put together." He'd been giving this a lot of thought, a whole lot of thoughts. "Ok, that works, what's your second wish?" Jess asked. That seemed to stump Harry. He'd spent so much time thinking about being smart he hadn't bothered thinking about anything else. "Well?" Jess insisted. "Give him a break," Pat said, "It's not like he has to come up with them this very minutes." "Well, we have to play by the rules." "The rules don't say anything about that," Pat countered "It's implied." "Bullshit," Pat said, you could hear in the way he said that one word he was getting angry. He turned to Mike. "Does he or doesn't he have to give them all right now?" Mike tended to be our arbiter when it came to settling our dispute. His background in law gave him an advantage plus he was also pretty fair. Of course because of that getting into an argument with him was almost impossible. "No, he doesn't. The rules only state that he has to come up with them, no time frame was mentioned with we came up with them." Mike looked at Harry. "So no hurry, when ever you think about them just tell us. Your turn Jim." I didn't answer immediately, instead giving our waitress time to refill my cup. "I'd want a Wolverine level healing ability," I then said "A what now?" Jess asked. "Wolverine is a comic book character," Mike answered. Considering those two lived together I would have thought he would have known about Wolverine. "He heals almost instantaneously; he can't get sick or be poisoned. Is that what you mean?" I nodded. "The next one would be to have an out of control sex drive." Pat rolled his eyes. "Here we go again." "What?" I asked. "You're always complaining about your low sex drive and yet anytime someone lets you, you have your hands in their pants." There were nods of agreement around the table. "That's got nothing to do with being horny, I'm just being playful. The guy can then walk away and it doesn't bother me. I'd love to know what it's like to be really horny all the time." "That sounds pretty disruptive," our waitress commented as she handed Mike his cup back. I hadn't really paid attention to her before now. "What do you mean?" Her tag said her name was Anna. She looked to be about my height with short light brown hair. She looked to be in her early fifties, but my gut was telling me she wasn't older than forty five. "Well, if you're that horny all the time how are you going to do things like go to work?" "Oh," I was a bit crestfallen, I hadn't thought of that. I turned to Pat. "Look, have you ever reached the point where you need to have sex so much it hurts?" Pat looked at Harry before saying, "yes, I have." The tone had been conversational, but I noticed Harry looking away. "Well, that's what I'd like to experience. So, if I don't have sex in," I was going to say a week, but this was just a game so why not make it a little more impressive, "twenty four hours then I'd reach that point." "Count yourself lucky it's only a game, then," Jess said, "that's called having blue balls, and it isn't pleasant." "When did you ever have blue balls?" Mike asked. Jess smiled at him and patted his hand, "that was before you, dear." He looked back at me, "what's the third one?" "Wait," Pat said. "How about jerking off? Would that fix the problem?" I thought about it, it would certainly be an easy out. "No. It would take the edge off, but the only way to reset the clock would be to have the kind of sex that requires two people or more and not just sucking off. I'm talking full contact, name screaming, cock in . . ." "Watch the language Jim," Mike said, "we're in public." He indicated Anna with a nod of the head. She was still standing next to our table, coffee pot in hand. "Don't mind me dears, with the things I've heard, and seen, in my life you can't offend me. And you're the last customers here so you don't have to worry about anyone else either." I looked around to confirm that we were indeed the only ones left. I looked at my watch; it was past three am. Had we really been here for almost two hours? "Still, we get the picture," Jess said. "So what's your third wish?" "I'd be a tiger," I said softly. I had the image in my head. It was an image I'd spent years constructing, more as a dream lover than as a look for myself, but if I was given the choice that's what I'd want. Close to Harry's height and build, but with more defined muscles and a tail; a tiger's head, muzzle, ears, whiskers and all. The whole body would be covered in fur, cropped close to the skin for most except the head and belly. It lead to a thick cock almost nine inches long. It was human looking, except for sensitive barbs under the gland. The hands and feet were also mostly human, but with retractable claws. "What do you mean a tiger?" Pat asked. "You know, a tiger," I said sharply, "I'd walk on two legs but I'd look like a tiger." If I had been more sober I would have found a more innocuous wish, my furry fetish wasn't something that I normally brought up, even among my best friends. We might be drinking coffee now, but there had been a lot of alcohol consumption at the club. "Like those drawings you get off the net?" Mike asked with a hint of disdain in his voice. "Yes, like those," I answered, exasperated. For all the comics Mike read he couldn't conceive of sexualizing them. When he'd accidently found some of the drawings and stories I'd printed out as jerk off material he'd been thoroughly disgusted. What he'd told me then had really hurt and it was almost six month before we talked again. The others also knew about my thing for furries, and they shared similar reactions to Mike, if nowhere near as extreme. "Look. I'm sorry I brought it up, ok. If you want I'll make another wish." "No," Harry said, "it's ok." The four of us looked at him. "I don't get it, but you do, so that makes it ok." Jess placed a hand over one of Harry's. "Wisely said, we all have things that we normally keep to ourselves. That's part of being human." He finished his coffee. "I think we should head out. I, at least, need my beauty sleep if I'm to dazzle the crowd at the show tonight. You'll be coming, right?" "I can't," Harry said sadly, "I have to fly out for training Sunday morning. I have to be rested and sober." The rest of us agreed that we would be there, paid our bill and went our separate ways. Well, I did. Jess and Mike left hand in hand, and Pat and Harry left together. I sighed as I watched the two pairs walk away and thought that I should have wished for a boyfriend instead. I chuckled, not that it would change anything since it was just a silly game. I was the only one riding the very late bus, and the driver eyed me suspiciously until I got off near my apartment building. The building was completely silent as I entered it. The guard barely looked up from his news paper as I crossed the lobby to the elevators. Once in my apartment I made a beeline to the bathroom, and then to the bedroom. Barely moments after getting out of my clothes I was unconscious on the bed, happy that I didn't have to get up for work today.
  10. Kindar

    Chapter 07

    "We're here," Walter said softly. I poked my head up and looked out the window. We were parked across the street from a boarded up office building. I looked around at what had been the city's industrial sector fifteen years ago and saw the devastation that the new rail system brought when they setup their terminal on the other side of the city. Every building I could see was boarded up and in an advanced state of disrepair. I'd known it was abandoned, everyone knew about it, but I hadn't realized just how bad it had become. This felt like a ghost town, but if I looked back the way we came I could see traffic in the distance. How could a place simply die like this while being this close to the city? It was rather depressing. "Where to now?" Walter asked. "The message said to go to the parking lot." I tried to sit up, but Walter's Mini hadn't been built for someone my size. There was a parking lot on each side of the building but I couldn't see any cars. Walter headed for the one ahead of us. It took two and a half week for the advertising "looking to sell five calico kitten" to show up on Craig's list. Strangely enough it didn't really make me feel any better. I went from worrying about the others having been caught to worrying about if this was a trap. Walter spent an hour trying to calm me down and when that didn't work Wilma dragged me downstairs to practice. When she was done with me I was just too exhausted to worry so I finally read the message and deciphered it. I was planning on coming here alone, but Walter asked how I was going to cross the city without attracting any attention. So he volunteered himself to drive me. "Do you think he meant the underground parking?" Walter asked as he pointed to the open garage door. We were at the back of the building and there was still no car in sight. "Could be." I checked the clock on the dash; it was already ten minutes past the meeting time. "Or they are really late. We might as well check it." Walter put the car into gear and entered the building. The first level looked like someone had gone to war. There were multiple burned wrecks that had once been cars, one of them looked like it had been smashed against a pylon. Considering recent events I started wondering if something more than the new rail terminal had happened here. I shoved that thought in a dark corner quickly. I really didn't want to know, I already had enough trouble as it was. It wasn't easy to keep them buried as Walter drove around the on his way to the next ramp down. There was a car smashed sideways against a wall. An explosion had sent it flying there I told myself to keep the paranoia at bay. There was enough debris around as well as scorch marks on the floor ceiling and pylons to make that probable. The second level was nowhere near the disaster zone the first one had been. It made seeing the four guys standing in the middle of it next to two cars easy. "Stop here," I told Walter as we reached the bottom of the ramp. "Why? They are way over there." "Because right now I can't vouch for your safety," I answered as I tried to extricate myself out of the back seat without breaking anything. "I thought they were your friends." Walter got out of the car and went to the passenger side to fold the seat forward. I got out and stretched, making every joint pop. "They are, but after what we've been through I don't know what state of mind they are in. Especially Mike, he was in a really foul mood the last time I saw him and he's strong enough to rip your car in half. So just stay here, ok?" Walter looked at the group and then nodded. I could see the worry on his face. "Don't worry, I'll be fine." I heard him get back in the car as I headed toward my friends. "Who's that?" Mike asked. He was leaning against the Camaro he and his dad had rebuilt when he was a teenager. "He's a friend of mine," I answered. I didn't say anything about the car but I didn't think it was really smart of him to be driving his own car. "He is one of those furries?" he asked with some disdain. "Okay," Jess said as he interposed himself between us, "before you get this old argument started how about we try to work our way out the jam we're in?" "That would be a smart thing to do," Pat said. He was leaning against Harry with an arm wrapped around his. They looked sweet like that, but my feelings were mixed. I was happy for them that they had been able to reconnect through this, but it was also a reminded that I was still alone. "How have you guys been?" I asked. "We've been ok," Jess said, "we're staying with my folks. Mike told them we were renovating the house, that'll give us a month or so before they start figuring out something's wrong." "We've been moving around," Harry said, "staying at different hotels. How about you Jim?" "I'm managing. I've been at my friend's place," I answered thumbing the car over my shoulder, "but I think his sister is getting tired of having me there." "How are you paying for the hotel?" Mike asked before I could. We couldn't touch our bank account without giving away where we were. "I just tell the ATM to give me money," Pat said, "never use the same ATM twice so they can't catch it." "How long are you going to be able to keep that up?" I asked. "No forever," Harry answered, "eventually they are going to wise up to it. And it doesn't solve the rest of our problems, all of us." "Ok, so you have a plan?" Mike asked. "Yeah, I do. I've started building new identities for the four of us. We'll have to move away, but we'll be free. The only thing is we'll have to avoid attracting attention again." "That'd be why you're not bothering with a new identity for me," I stated, "There's no way I can avoid attracting attention." That sucked, I was going to spend the rest of my life in hiding. "Actually, for you I have something better." Harry handed me a folded piece of paper. "What is it?" I asked as I took it. "It's the address of one Seth Burnsteng." "Who is that?" I opened the paper and looked at the address, "And where the hell is Stampton, Colorado?" "Seth is the guy who put the force field in their prison. He's the one who can build anything he can imagine. Stampton is a fair bit south west of Denver in the mountains." "Ok, so what am I suppose to do?" "Go see him and convince him to help you. He can make you a device that will let you look human." I was silent. Looking human would be good, it would let me have a normal life. "How did you find out where he lives?" Mike asked. "I hacked their computers." Harry said. "How the hell did you manage that?" "It's surprisingly easy to do when you have someone who can tell machines what to do," Pat answered. "Are you sure it isn't a trap? Maybe they let you get the information so they could capture Jim." "No," Harry replied with confidence, almost arrogance, "They have no idea that we hacked them. I was extremely careful and with Pat's help we covered up our tracks." We were all silent after that. "Jess, are you ok?" I asked. He'd been unusually quiet. "Is this the only way? I mean do we really have to leave the city and become someone else." "It pretty much is for us," Pat said, "They might not know about you, but they caught us so they know everything about us. We need to disappear if we want a change at a normal life." Jess nodded. "I don't want to seem selfish here, but I still have my family, my parents. I don't know how I feel about abandoning them." "Are you saying you don't want to come with me?" Mike asked. "Oh honey, of course I want to come with you. But if I just disappear my parents are going to freak out. Of all of us I was the only one fortunate enough to be accepted by his parents for who he was, dresses and all. They stood by me, I owe it to them to not just vanish." Mike hugged his boyfriend gently. "He's right," I said, "My mom kicked me out when she caught me and my best friend fooling around. I care about her about as much as she cares about me, but Jess' folks have been good to all of us." "I'll stay then," Mike said kissing jess' forehead "And do what, stay hidden under the stairs? I can't ask you to do that, love." "I'm strong enough to deal with them if they ever show up." "You'd be putting his family in danger if you do that," Harry pointed out. "He's right. I'm going to go with you, but I'll tell my parents. They won't tell anyone." "So this is it, isn't it?" I said after a few moments of uncomfortable silence. "We're going our separate ways forever." "Yeah," Mike said, "I guess this is goodbye." He hugged me. "I'm sorry for giving you a hard time about the furry stuff." "That's ok," I said hugging him back, "you wouldn't be you if you weren't at least a little intolerant." "You know, it's not too late for me to smack you to the other side of town if you want." "Oh, will you two stop it," Jess said pulled Mike away from me and hugging me tightly. "I'm going to miss you Jim," he said crying. "I'm going to miss you to. I wish I'd gotten to get to see one of the new and improved Jessie Star's shows." "Just keep an eye on the TV," he said with a smile, "you're going to see me there." I hugged Harry and Pat. "You two take care of each other, okay?" "You be careful," Harry replied, "I'll keep an eye on Craig's list so if you need help at any point just send a message and I'll do whatever I can." "Hopefully it won't get to that, but thanks." I turned around before I started crying too. "Let's go." I said as I crammed myself in the back of Walter's Mini. "Is everything ok?" "No," I replied as I watched my four friends, "but it's the best I can hope for right now."
  11. Kindar

    Chapter 06

    I looked up as I heard Walter fall out of bed, it sounded painful. He ran to his door, and then back to the bed. A moment later he ran out of his bedroom "Wilma!" he yelled as he started down the stairs. "Wilma, you'll never believe the dream I had. It was so intense it felt real." He skidded to a stop in the kitchen's opening, dressed only in his boxers "Spare me," Wilma replied without looking up from the bacon she was frying, "Your lurid dreams don't interest me." I don't think he heard her. He was too busy staring at me as I looked at him with half a bagel in my mouth, well, muzzle. "You're real, I didn't dream you." I chewed a few times and swallowed. "I'd have thought still feeling what we did earlier would have told you it wasn't a dream." Walter turned beet red. It was interesting to see that his entire body blushed. And I smiled in pride as I noticed the tent forming in his shorts. He noticed where I was looking and smiled back before sitting at the breakfast table. "What are you doing?" he asked waving at all the food on the table. "Well," I stabbed a sunny side up egg with my fork and dragged it in the other half of my bagel. "It started as a test to see what food I could still eat, but Wilma kind of got carried away." Once I was up from the basement Wilma sat me and started preparing food. She didn't just hand me a fruit or a vegetable, she prepared an entire fruit salad. Wilma pretty much only had one vice, I didn't count being able to easily seduce men as a vice, just a talent, she loved to cook. She really, REALLY, loved it. That lollypop she'd been sucking on when I got here? She'd made it herself. She'd made everything on the table too, the Caesar salad, the steaks, the eggs, the orange rosemary chicken, well, that was reheated but she'd still made it. Even the bagel was one of her recipes. She didn't care to eat most of it. She just enjoyed cooking it, and always cooked enough to feed an army. How Walter could manage to only weight two hundred pounds escaped me. Walter scooped some of the fruit salad in a bowl. "How is it coming?" "Well, I haven't had a reaction to anything she's fed me yet so I'm guessing I didn't turn into a complete carnivore." "That's good," he said around a spoonful of fruit, "you already like meat well enough." "Very funny," I said forcing a dry laugh. Walter chuckled once and then got serious. "Seriously 'tho, what's your plan?" I put my fork on my plate I was almost full from eating a bit of everything Wilma had put on the table, and the reminder of the situation I was in took care of the rest. "I don't know. I'm hoping you'll let me stay here while I wait for my friends to contact me." "Of course you can stay," he said earnestly. "Do I get a say in this?" Wilma asked as he put a plate of bacon on the table. It smelled really good, but my stomach rebelled at the thought of eating anymore. "Of course you do," Walter said in a slightly offended tone, "It's your house too. I just hope you aren't planning on kicking Jim out when he's in trouble. And sit down, you've cooked enough for today." Wilma looked at the stove and forced herself to turn away from it. "Of course not," she said once she was sitting, "I just want to make sure you're not thinking with your cock." "I'd never . . . .." Wilma snorted. "Come on Walt, he's a living fursuit. You get a boner just looking at him. I'm amazed you haven't tried to hang him up in your closet with the other suits yet." Walter looked down as he blushed. I couldn't believe he'd actually thought about doing it. "Just try it, and we'll see who ends up hung in the closet." I was spared a reply by Walter's phone ringing. He ran to the other room and picked it up. I listened in just long enough to figure out it was someone who wanted to buy a house. Walter was a real estate agent, and a pretty successful one at that which was how he could afford all the fursuits in his closet. I tuned out the conversation and looked at Wilma who was nibbling on a lettuce leaf. "Ah, is there any way you can teach me some of what you know?" "You're not talking cooking here, are you?" I shook my head. "You know that Tai Chi isn't really used for fighting, right?" I chuckled. "Come on, I've seen you take down guys bigger and stronger than you. You can't tell me that all it's good for is relaxing." She stood and started putting away the food. "Why do you want to learn?" "You know the situation I'm in. I have people after me. As strong as I am, I don't know how to fight. What good am I going to be to anyone if all I'm doing if flailing around?" She looked at me over her shoulder. "Well, I can teach you the basics." "Is there any way we can jump over the basic and go directly to the kick ass stuff?" She turned and folded her arms over her chest. "Look Jim, if all you want to do is fight then just close your fists and swing it at the person you want to hit. Tai Chi isn't something you can learn over night. I was five years old when I started learning and fifteen before I even could think about asking to learn the combat side of the art. "I'm willing to teach you, but you need to accept that this isn't a movie. I can't give you three word of encouragement and turn you into a master martial artist. It's going to take time for you to learn." I nodded. "Time I probably don't have." I got up and helped Wilma put the food in plastic containers while I thought about it. Was it worth starting on something that could take me decades to learn if I didn't know I'd be around for that long? Thinking that way I realized that no one knew they'd be around for even a decade. Even without the wish I could step outside my building tomorrow and be hit by a car. The future was never certain, that didn't stop most people from starting something that would take years to finish. While we put the food away in silence Walter finished his call and went to his room. When he came back he was dressed in a dark blue suit with a blood red tie. "I'll be back in a few hours," he said before kissing his sister on the cheek. "That was quick," she replied. "Yeah, the client already had a list of the houses she wants to look at today so I just had to pull their listing and a few extra ones for comparison." He grabs papers from his office and put them in the suitcase next to the door. "Don't disappear while I'm away," he told me. "Got nowhere to go so I'll be here," I replied. "Good." And he was out the door. I spent the next two hours in their basement with Wilma teaching me posture and a few Tai Chi motions. I felt silly and self conscious. Even when she moved as slowly as she could I couldn't match her. She told me not to worry about it, but my pride still took a beating. It was just moving, I should be able to do it easy. "Dancing's just moving too," she said when I snarled at myself for missing a step, "but not everyone can dance well. Some are naturals and the rest need to practice. You need to practice. So take a few breath to calm yourself and lets get back to it." When she called a stop to it I was tired. Not the tired you got from running until you were out of breath, but the one from having to focus on each and every movement you made. I flopped down on the couch while Wilma busied herself in the kitchen. A few minutes later she offered me a glass of lemonade. She didn't stay, as nice as she was we didn't' have much in common. I was a cat, she was a mouse, one that would throw me across the room if I stepped out of line, but a mouse none the less. It was funny how species division within the community tended to reflect a real difference of interest in the real world. Sure, not all mice were meek and fearful, as Wilma proved, and not all foxes were sluts, but when you checked we didn't often find predator socializing with prey. Walter came back home tired but happy. His client had liked the houses. I gave him a backrub, which proved to be more challenging than before due to my claws. After that Walter wanted to have sex, so he spent twenty minutes deciding which suit he wanted to wear. Walter didn't have a specific specie, he was the specie of whatever suit he happened to wear. Each of them also had a history and personality he adopted while he wore them. I'd asked him once how he'd come up with all of them and his reply was that the suit just told him. I never understood how he could just come up with that from looking at a fursuit. He came out of his closet wearing his wolf suit. Its short fur was ash grey with a lighter mane, almost silver. There was some padding under the fur making Walter look bulkier. The wolf's head covered his head entirely. Dark grey triangular ears with silver tip on top, yellow coloured eyes which I knew from wearing it once before were transparent and a long muzzle make him look completely inhuman. His hands had black claws at the end of the fingers and black pad on the palm. From having asked around I knew a suit like this cost over a thousand dollars, the fur didn't feel synthetic and the proportions weren't exaggerated. It took a lot of work to get a suit that didn't end up looking like a cartoon character or a sport mascot. The only thing breaking the illusion was Walter's erect pink cock and balls against the grey fur. Walter had tried to find a way to get a sheath made to give his cock a look that would match the suit, but no one had managed to make one that both looked right and that he could have sex with so he made do without. When he wore the wolf Walter was in charge. The wolf was the Alpha of the pack, the one who made the decision, the one who dominated. I did stop him from turning the camera on. Walter argued that we'd filmed ourselves during sex before, but I'd always been wearing a suit then. This was me now. I wasn't going to make a spectacle of myself. He took out his disappointment on me. It was a rather fun night.
  12. Kindar

    Chapter 04

    I moaned in pain slightly. Over the last hour my balls had become so tender that the smallest movement felt like they were being crushed. Jess was right, having blue balls sucked. "How are you doing?" Harry asked. "Not good," I replied weakly. "You should jerk off. You said that would take the edge off." "They probably have cameras watching us." "Who gives a fuck if they are watching or not. You're in pain, and jerking off will help so just do it." He was right, if I didn't do anything it would only get worst. I turned on my back, closed my eyes and did it. It didn't take as long as I thought it would, as soon as I started my imagination kicked in. I guess I was really horny. When I was done I lied back and let out a sigh of relief. The worst of the pain had definitely gone away. I wiped my belly fur as best as I could with a hand and licked my hand clean since I wasn't going to wipe it on my pants. I'd still need a shower to clean off the stuff that I couldn't remove by hand. "Feeling better I take it?" Harry asked. "Yeah, but this is only a stop gap. In not too long I'll probably be in as bad a state." "That's ok. I have an idea to help with that." He didn't give me a chance to ask. "I know you guys are watching and listening," he yelled as loud as he could, "so why don't one of you come down here. We have someone who's in pain and he needs help." "Are you nuts?" Mike screamed at him, but Harry didn't listen to him he just kept on yelling at our unseen watchers. Harry was loud, loud enough that I had to cover my ears. He kept on going for over twenty minutes, only stopping once someone walked in. "Listen here." The man said when he was in front of Harry's cell. What I saw of him when he walk by was pretty attractive. He was a few years older than me, blond hair cut short, clean shaven and looking trim under his dark blue suit. He was definitely doable. I closed my eye as I realized where my mind had gone. In the state I was in I'd probably do who ever offered. "I'm not here to see to the needs of some sex depraved deviant, or to listen to you scream your head off. So I'm just here to tell you that I'm turning off the sound. You can scream as loud as you want now." "What he's going through isn't something he can control. It's a side effect of the wishes he made. You know tigers can have sex hundred of times in a day, right? well, he didn't word it as well as he should have and now he's stuck with their libido. If he doesn't get off he's going to be in pain." "So what you expect me to find him a girl or something?" "No. just put me in his cell and I'll help him with it." My ears perked. Had Harry just said he was going to have sex with me? I had hit on him a few times after he and Pat broke up, but he'd never been interested. "You're kidding right? You'd fuck another guy just because he's a friend and he's in pain?" "No, I'm going to have sex with my friend because I happen to like having sex with guys, and it's going to help him out." The man was silent for a moment. "I'm not supposed to put two to a cell." "Come on man, what are we going to do? If we could get out of here we'd have done it already. We're just going to have sex. You can hang around and put me back in my cell after. Considering the state he's in we shouldn't be too long." I sat on the edge of the bench, panting in the silence. I was really hoping the guard would agree to it because now that I'd experienced blue balls I didn't want to ever feel that again. "Fine, I'll put you two together, but don't try anything." "I swear, I won't. All I want to do is help out Jim." There was the sound of foot steps, a pause and more steps, those were Harry leaving his cell. Then there was a gasp of surprise, something hitting the wall and crumbling to the ground. Mike was up and standing at the edge of the cell looking at what was happening excitingly. I got up and went to the force field of mine. "What the fuck?" Harry said. I could now see him studying the wall. The guard was sprawled at his feet, unmoving. "Where's the control panel?" "He put his hand on the wall between the fields," Mike said, "about where you're looking." A moment later there was a light glow against Harry's face. What ever else happened didn't please him. He grabbed he guard's hand and lifted it to the wall. There was that glow again, but this time Harry was please with what ever had happened. He dragged the guard to the other side of my cell and did the same thing on that wall. There was a slight flicker in front of me, like the channel had jumped for a moment and when I tested the space where the force field had been, there was nothing. "I take it we're not having sex." I said as I followed Harry dragging the guard to Mike's cell. He placed the man's hand against the wall. I couldn't see any kind of marks indicating there was something there, but when the hand made contact a square of light appeared around it and Mike's force field flickered off too."No, sorry. I'd rather we take care of that after we've gotten out of here." He moved on to Pat's cell. "Are you going to be ok until then?" "I know how long that's going to take, but hopefully I'll manage." "Good. Can you carry him?" Harry asked after he'd removed the IV needled from Pat's arm. I picked him up, and the lightness of his body reminded me that the muscles I had weren't just for show. I was much stronger than I had been before. "How are we doing this?" Mike asked, "are we sneaking out?" "No, they've probably already seen that we're out of our cells so we need to make a straight line for the outside." Mike rubbed his hands together. "Good, that means I get to smash anything in our way." "Try not to hurt anyone too badly." "No promises." Mike headed directly for the metal door and ripped it off its hinges. We made it down the corridor before encountering a pair of guards. Mike was on them before they had time to take out they guns. He just grabbed them by the collars and slammed them against the wall. They fell to the floor and didn't move. "Elevators are that way," he said, indicating the junction on the left with a nod. "Good," Harry replied, "the stairs should be nearby." "Why bother with the stairs?" Mike asked as we headed in that direction. "You really want to lock yourself in a box that someone else can control?" Harry replied curtly. "What do we care what floor they have us get off? Me and Jim can take care of anyone they throw at us." "Only if you're conscious. I'm willing to bet Jim wouldn't be affected, but I doubt he would be able to handle carrying the three of us and deal with any opposition. You take the elevator if you want. The three of us are sticking with the stairs." Harry speed up. I just shrugged as I walked by Mike, accelerating to avoid being left behind. I heard him grunt and then run to get in front of Harry. "Fine, but stay behind me, you're not bullet proof." As Harry had guessed there was a stairwell not a hundred feet from the elevators. I was surprised that no alarm sounded when Mike pushed it open. The stairs were large, me and Harry could easily fit side by side in them. Painted in the wall by the door in red was 'S3'. "We're going up," Harry said. He didn't get any argument. The ground floor was announced by a large red 'L'. Mike opened the door a little and peeked. "ok, I can't see the main entrance, but all the light's coming from the right, so that's were I'm guessing they are." "Did you see anyone?" Harry asked. "No." "The only people I heard," I added, "were in the distance. I don't think there's anyone near this corridor." "Good, then as soon as we're out the door we go left." Mike gave Harry an incredulous look. "You're kidding right? the door's right there." "Yeah, with a lot of witness to watch us leave. I'd rather go out the back way and avoid making a scene." It looked for a moment like Mike was going to argue, but instead he looked out the door and quickly went left. I followed him with Harry right behind me. I knew Harry was right, but I didn't feel good heading deeper into the building. We made a couple of turns until we ended up in a larger corridor that seemed to cross the entire building. "Which direction?" Mike asked Harry. Harry took a moment to reply so I offered. "I think the back of the building is that way," I pointed to the left. "I can hear something that sounds like cars coming from there," I nodded to the right, "so that's probably the front." "Sounds good to me," Harry said and headed to the left. "Is this place being empty making you guys as nervous as I am?" I asked softly. Except for the two guards we hadn't encountered anyone at all. "It's the middle of the morning so everyone's probably in their offices." Harry offered. "Or they've emptied the place because they know we're out of our cells." Mike countered. "Not exactly helping," Harry said. Mike looked over his shoulder, "maybe not, but which one sounds more plausible to you?" Just as he finished saying that three guards rapidly turned the corner, gun drawn. "Shit," I muttered and turned. Harry was a dozen steps behind me so I lobed Pat at him. "Catch. Stay behind us." I added when he was holding him. I ran next to Mike as the men fired at us. At first I wasn't sure they were actually shooting at us since their guns were completely silent. Even with my enhanced hearing I didn't hear a thing, but I felt them sting. Fortunately they didn't hit anything that slowed me down so that I reach one of the men before he could think of running off. I back handed him and he flew against the wall. I heard a loud crunch when he hit and rushed to him fearful I had killed him. He still had a pulse so I sighed in relief. I hear Mike take care of the other two behind me. When I looked at him he was holding two limp forms by the collar. At his feet were their guns and a pool of crushed metal pellets. Curious I picked up a handful and found one that was almost intact. It was a small bearing not even an eighth of an inch diameter. I wondered what kind of gun fired bearings for a moment before Harry elbows me. "Come on, we need to get out of here before they send more people after us." We made it to the loading docks with only one other confrontation, this time we surprised the guards and they were unconscious before they could draw their guns. Outside we were in a narrow alley, hardly wide enough for two cars. "Were to now?" I asked. "We need to find someplace to hide until we can figure things out." Harry said looking around. "You guys go hide," Mike said, "I need to go find Jess." "We can't split up. We need to stick together through this." "Yeah? According to what rulebook? This isn't a comic book Harry. We aren't four friends who were given powers to fight the good fight. All I want is to make sure my boyfriend's ok." Harry grabs Mike's arms as the man was turning away "Fine, but don't run off right now." Mike looked at him, they both knew that if he decided to there was nothing Harry could do to stop him. "Give me five minutes to at least come up with a way for us to stay in contact. We can't afford to completely lose track of each other." "Fine," Mike said, "but make it quick because they are bound to check here." While Harry thought things over Mike just leaned against the wall while I looked around. All I could see at the end of the alley was another highrise As I looked up I saw part of the logo. "Guys," I said, "I think we're downtown." "You're kidding." I pointed at the building. "Unless you know where IBM owns another highrise I know where we are." "Ok, I know how we can do it." Harry said, "We're going to use Craig's list." Mike looked at him, "how the hell is that going to allow that?" Harry took a moment to calm himself. Even I was starting to get fed up with Mike's attitude. "when ever we need to reach the others just put an add there with the header "looking to sell five calico kitten" then in the body make sure that every sixth word forms the place and time were you want to meet up. Give it a few days in case we might not be able to online every day." "You expect us to manage to make an add using . . ." Harry cut him off. "Stop acting like such an idiot Mike. It doesn't take a genius to arrange words around to make something that will look like an ad even just a little." Mike looked at him for a moment. "Yeah, sure, what ever." He turned and walked away. "You guys have fun," he said with a waving at us. "What the hell is wrong with him?" Harry asked when Mike was a small shape in the distance. "Stress I'm guessing, and he's worried about Jess." "Yeah, I guess so. But I've never seen that turn him in a jerk before." "Different level and kind of stress." I said. "Could be. Anyway, he has the right idea. We should get out of here." He started walking. I stayed where I was. "I think it's best if I head out on my own." Harry turned. "What are you talking about? I meant it when I told Mike we had to stick together." "Look at me Harry. A much as we'd like to, I can't exactly walk out on the street and blend in. You take Pat and you find a safe place. I'll keep an eye out on the net for your message." "Where are you going to go?" "I know a few people who'll take me in even looking like this. I'll use back alleys to make my way to them." "We can go with you. I mean it's not like we have any urgent appointment to keep here." "No, somehow I don't think it'll be easy to sneak three people around the alleys. You find a place to wait out Pat. Once he's awake you two hide and figure out a way to get us all out of this mess." Harry hesitated a moment but then nodded. "Ok, I don't know how long it'll take but we'll find a solution." I nodded and waited. Since he didn't start moving I turned and headed toward the other end of the alley. It took me most of the day to travel maybe one mile. Not to say I had to deal with my blue balls. I had to jerk off every hour or so just so I could keep walking. I had to borrow, well steal, some clothes to cover myself up. Every so often I had to cross an open road and by the time I reached the other side I was shaking like a leaf from the stress. But finally, a bit after supper time, I found myself in front of a small two story house with red brown bricks, a recently rebuilt porch painted light blue and a perfectly manicured lawn.
  13. Kindar

    Chapter 03

    I stared at him mouth open. I couldn't believe Mike had just said we should wish all of this away. "No," Jess said resolutely. Mike looked at him in surprise. "You can't be serious. Not after the way you freaked out this morning." Jess cupped his cheeks. "Honey, I was surprised. Yeah, I never expected this to happen, but it is something I've always wanted. I don't have to settle with being a drag queen anymore; I'm a bonafide female impersonator." "I don't want things to change either," I stated. Mike looked at me and rolled his eyes. "'course not," he muttered. "How about you?" he asked Pat. Pat leaned against the table, looking worn. He looked at the four of us and then at his hands. He looked completely lost for a moment and then he closed his eyes. "I, I don't know," he said, rubbing a hand over his face. "I wi . . . I wish I'd known it was going to come true so I could have put a few more caveats on it works. The way things are though? I just don't know." "The point's moot anyway," Harry said, "we can't change what happened." He was looking at us with a slightly disinterested expression as he took another swig form the juice bottle. "What do you mean?" Mike asked, "you still have one wish." "Yeah, but if you remember the wording, it has to be a selfish wish. I defy you to convince me to want to wish myself back to being an idiot." He put a lot of anger behind the word 'idiot' and stared directly at Mike as he said it, literally daring him to try. "Great, that's just great." Mike grumbled. "I don't see why you have such a problem with this," Harry added. "You've got strength, invulnerability and handsomeness" "Not that you ever needed *that*, dear," Jess commented on the handsomeness. Mike looked at his boyfriend and a small smiled cracked his dour face, widening to an open mouth grin. I swear I saw the light reflect on his teeth as he did that. "Good," Harry said as he rubbed his hands together, "now that's settled, how about we get out of this place. I'm hungry and I can hear books calling my name." That seemed to settle it, we left Harry's condo. Harry and Pat were walking in front of me on the way to the elevators. Harry placed an arm around Pat's shoulders, but the other man shrugged it off. The football player's body tensed for a moment and I caught a smell off him that my brain identified as disappointment. I was surprised that I could identify the smell, as well as Harry's reaction; I would never have guessed that he still carried a torch for his ex. Behind me Jess was still telling Mike how everything was going to be ok. The ride down the elevator was in silence. I distracted myself by identifying the multiple smells contained inside the cage. Someone had brought groceries in recently, and my stomach growled in response. I hadn't eaten anything yet either. I got a few amused glances and I just shrugged as the door opened. We stepped out in the empty lobby and I heard something rip. Jess cursed as I turned around. His shirt had caught on a burr and there was a long rip along his sleeve. I stifled a chuckle as he slowed down his walk to try to fix it. Jess' vanity wasn't quite legendary, but it was impressive. Even Mike shook his head in amusement and kept on walking. Jess would catch up to us once he was happy he looked presentable. We stepped outside the building to an odd sight. Police cars were parked in the street, with officers behind them, holding guns and riffles. The strangest thing was that they were pointing them at us. On the other side of the street, behind a barricade was a crowd of people and standing out in the group of men in blue was a man in a gray suit talking with one of the officer. Mike, Pat, Harry and I looked at each other as we stepped forward, almost more out of curiosity to find out what was going on than anything else I think. I heard a cacophony of guns being cocked. "Do not move," Yelled one of the officers. He didn't have to use a megaphone since there was barely thirty feet separating them from us. "Stay where you are, get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head." "Guns and riffles jam!" Pat yelled in return, at the top of his lungs. Harry took another step. "What seems to be the problem?" his voice carried without him having to yell. "I said; don't move." The same officer repeated. "Just get own on your knees, put your hands behind your head and everything will be okay." "We haven't done anything wrong," Harry said, but he tensed, He'd noticed too that a few of the officers had tried to fire their guns. They were now looking at them and each other, trying to figure out why nothing had happened. "We're just doing our job, son. You and your friends need to come with us." I wasn't paying attention to the officer anymore, the man in the suit was talking on his cell phone and I was trying to make out what he was saying. Unfortunately the noise made by the officers made that impossible. A moment later something stung my back, hard enough to really hurt. With a growl of pain I worked at reaching that spot. When I did I pulled a dart out. I turned toward where it had to come and another one hit me in the chest. I pulled it out too and I roared in anger, trying to see where it was coming from. A few more hit me but I ignored them, obviously what ever they contained didn't affect me. "Pat?" Mike kneeled next to him. He was sprawled on the ground and Mike was shaking him, trying to wake him. I saw that Harry was also on the ground, unconscious. I slowly turned, a growled coming from deep inside me, I looked at the cops and roared. Everyone cowered back, except for the man in the suit. He was still talking on the phone while looking at me. Since of everyone here he was the only one not afraid I figured he was the one in charge. I ran toward him and I saw signs that he was getting nervous. Just as I was about to jump over a police car something hit me in the back so hard that I crashed in the car, smashing the window. I used the car to help me up, not paying attention to the red stuff I could see plastered on the door, I was too intent on the man. I was standing again when another hit sent me in the car again. This time I caught the faint sound of the shot being fired. I never stopped looking at the man as I stood again. He was definitely nervous now. "He's healing, are you hearing me?" he said. I could hear him now since he was almost screaming. "Make it a head shot for God's sake!" I heard the shot almost at the same time as my head was slammed against the hood of the police car and the world went black. * * * * * I have to say I never expected to wake up. When I'd called the healing ability 'Wolverine level' I hadn't really considered the extent of what that meant. Now I remembered reading a comic where he put a claw through his own brain. The reason why he'd done it escaped me, but he'd survived something that should have been fatal. So had I. I opened my eyes and they adjusted automatically to the bright light. I looked around the completely white room. Well, except for the missing wall opposite where I was lying. I did expect to feel pain, just not where it was coming from. My head felt fine, so did my body, there was no indication I'd been shot, not even the telltale sign of pink skin. No, what was hurting were my balls. How long had I been unconscious? I sat up cautiously, my balls were pretty tender. I looked for my cell so I could check the time, but my pockets had been emptied. I hoped I was close to the twenty four hour mark, because this was pretty annoying. I didn't want to think it might be getting more painful. I stood and headed out of this room. Only to hit an invisible wall that gave me quite the electrical shock, sending me reeling back. "Watch it, those thing sting." I recognized Mike's voice and realized that there was another cell in front of mine. Mike was sitting in the bench, watching me. "Thanks for the warning," I grumble. I moved back close to the force field, rubbing my muzzle, which had taken the brunt of the shock and looked around. On each side of Mike were other cells. In the one right next to him I could see Pat on a stretcher. "What's wrong with Pat?" I asked him. "He's been sedated," came the answer, but from the cell on my right, in front of Pat's. It was Harry. "Are you ok Harry?" There was a sigh. "I'm fine. The hangover passed hours ago." I sat down and leaned back. "How did they get you?" I asked Mike. "They rushed me and then gassed me. I think I hurt a few of them," he said remorsefully. "I should have wished for his super breath instead." "I know what you mean," I said as I rested my head against the wall. Mike snorted, "right, like you'd have done it different." "Excuse me?" I said looking at him. "Do you really think this is what I would have wished for if I'd known it was going to come true?" Mike Snorted again. "Of course you would have. Being one of those furry things with an out of control sex drive's always been your dream." I stared at him, momentarily speechless. Was that what he though of me? I walked to the force field. "You really think I'm some sort of freak don't you?" I growled. "You with the perfect life, the perfect job and the prefect boyfriend," I added with derision. "Hey!" Mike snapped, standing too. "What, you think I'm happy with this?" he was yelled, showing me his hands. "I'm afraid of touching Jess 'cause I might break him in half if I'm not careful." "Boo hoo hoo," I mocked loudly, "cry me a river why don't you. At least you're able to go outside without having the cops shooting you." "You've always wanted to be different, well now you've got your wish so stop bitching." "Shut up!" Harry said before I could reply. "Will the two of you just shut the fuck up!" He sighed loudly. "Did one of us wish for you two to become children or what?" "Sorry," I said meekly as I went back to the bench. Mike was still angry at me, I could tell, but he looked at Harry and when he spoke his voice was controlled. "What about you? Have you been able to think of a way out?" "No, I haven't," he answered flatly. "How come? I thought you were a genius now. Shouldn't you be able to think of a way to turn off those force fields; reverse the polarity or something?" "I might be a genius," Harry responded, and I could hear the glare he gave Mike from the tone, "but I'm an uneducated genius. Give me a couple of books on electronics and structural supports and I would have us out of here in a jiffy. Without those we're stuck." "How about using . . ." "I can't." Harry interrupted. "What do you mean? Don't you still . . ." "I just can't ok? Just leave it." Harry was spared Mike's reply because we heard a door open and close. In the following silence came the sounds of footsteps. A few moments later a man in his late sixties came into view. He was a little shorter and heavier set than I used to be, but he wore it much better. Actually with the well cut beige suit and crown of silver hair he looked pretty damn good. He stopped before our cells and held his hands before him. Looking at him standing there silently he looked a grand father, kind and understanding. Of course, since he was on the other side of the force field I was pretty sure the image was false, but it was still there. "I'm guessing you're the guy in charge," Mike said with derision. The man turned around to study him. "No, I am not," he replied after a moment, in a deep voice. "My name is Joel Montgomery, I am here to evaluate you." "So it's Judge, jury and executioner kind of thing?" "Please Mister Marcozy, this is the United States. I am here to talk with all of you, once that is done it is my hope that I will be able to tell my superiors, the actual 'people in charge' as you put it, that you are sound of mind and pose no threat to the general population." "All of us?" Harry asked, "How about Pat?" Joel stepped in front of the cell and looked at him, lying on his cot. "I am afraid that Mister Lennon will have to remain under sedation, at least until we have secured a cell that is not so reliant on technology." He turned back to us. "We saw him command the police's weapons, so we would prefer not to give him the opportunity to let any of you out. I am certain that you are good people, but considering your current circumstance I am doubtful that you were be inclined to remain here if you were given the choice." "You got that right," Mike snarled. "Michael just stay quiet, will you?" Harry said with a sigh of exasperation. "You aren't helping the situation right now. I take it these aren't our new permanent residences then?" "Hardly," the old man answered, "this is merely an evaluation station. I am highly confident that once I am done you and Mister Marcozy will be allowed to leave." "What about me?" I asked. The man moved closer to my cell. The way he looked at me I could tell that even with his age he didn't need glasses. "I fear that you pose a different problem. Your appearance is the issue. Allowing you to move about the population will make it difficult to keep the existence of Wishers hidden." "What's a Wisher?" I asked him. "That would be the four of you. I would hazard a guess that rather recently you made one of more wishes, probably simply as a way to pass the time, without any belief that they would come true." "We're not the first ones, are we?" Harry asked and continues without waiting for an answer. "This place is set up to deal with people who can do things out of the ordinary. You wouldn't have something like this if it hadn't happened before." Joel nodded. "You are correct. In fact the first time we became aware of Wishers was during the Great War. We have come across other Wishers since that time, but I believe that you are the first group we have found so close to when the wishes were granted. When did you realize your wishes had come true?" Mike looked from me to Harry with a definitive shake of the head. "Sometime during the night," Harry answered. Mike glared at him. "Harry. You sure it's wise to tell him?" was all I said. "What do you want to do? We're not really in a position to hold anything back. You and Mike might be able to withstand what ever torture they put us through to get the info, but I'm just a regular guy." "You are hardly normal anymore; Mister Marcozy called you a genius. How smart are you now?" "He's smarter then Einstein," Mike offered sharply. I rolled my eyes at his behavior. I'd never seen Mike act like that. Joel looked at him over his shoulder before focusing back on Harry. "How many wishes did each of you make?" "Two each," Harry said. The old man raised an eyebrow. "Only two?" "Yeah. That was the game we played last night. Two selfish wishes." "And what did you wish for?" There was a moment of silence. "Pat wished to be able to talk to machines, and have them obey what he said. Mike wanted super strength and invulnerability. Jim went for the tiger form and healing." "What bout you?" "I wished to be smarter than my friends put together." "What was the second one?" Harry hesitated again. "I had to use the second one to lower my IQ," he said with definite embarrassment in his tone. Joel cracked a smile. "I see. Where were you when you made the wishes?" "We were at a diner on . . . I, I don't remember where it was." "Are you trying to protect someone there?" Joel asked. "No, I was rather drunk when we got there. Either one of you remember where it was?" he called out. I tried to recall, but I had been pretty drunk myself, and I hadn't really been paying attention, Jess was telling a story about something happening backstage at one of the shows, I couldn't even remember what *that* had been about, and his stories were always memorable. "Not really," Mike said, "I think it was named after the street it was on." "Me neither; I don't remember anything about how we got there, except," I added as a though resurfaced, "something about doing some cleaning. Does that make any sense?" I had no idea where it had come from but I clearly remembered thinking about cleaning my place as we got close. "Broom's Diner," Mike suggested after a moment of silence. "That's right," Harry picked up, "near the corner of Broom and . . . Damn it, I can't remember that either." "That is quite alright, I believe that is enough information so we can start the investigation." I lied down on the bench; my balls were getting more painful by the minute. "This place seems rather high tech," Harry said, "how did you build it?" "As I said, you are not the first Wishers we have come across. In the Twenties it became obvious we needed a way to secure Wishers so we build this facility. In the Forties we found a Wisher who like you gained a higher intellect and he upgraded the facilities. In the early Eighties we found one who could build virtually anything he could imagine." He chuckled and I could hear in his tone that he was reminiscing a little when he started talking again. "Poor Seth was very much out there, like he would say. He added the force field and quite a few other things. Now we use this facility to house Wisher we can't be certain can be contained in other ways." "When you let us out, is there any chance I can meet him?" Harry asked, "I'd love to discuss how he built it." "I am certain that can be arranged, although it might take some time. The last news I heard from him he was taking himself off the grid, somewhere in the mountains I believe." "That's ok, there's no hurry. Once you're done here what happens? You call your boss and tell him to let us go?" "No, I will be making my report in person. You and Mister Marcozy should be released within the next forty eight hours. In spite of his attitude I believe that it will be safe to allow him in the general population; after a course on etiquette, of course. Unless you have other questions for me I shall see to it." "I'm good, how about you two?" Harry asked. Neither Mike nor I replied, so Joel left. I curled up and tried to wish the pain away.
  14. Kindar

    Chapter 02

    Something buzzed loudly. I groaned in complaint, my face buried in my pillow and blindly smacked the side table trying to hit the snooze button. I connected with something and it fell to the floor. The buzzing stopped. I sighed in relief and went back to sleep. The buzzing started again. "For god's sake," I whined as I pulled a pillow over my head to muffle the noise, "stop it already." The buzzing stopped a few second later, but the damage was already done. I was awake. I stayed like that for a moment, head sandwiched between two pillows hoping I'd be able to fall asleep again, but it didn't happen. With a sigh I turned on my side, keeping my eyes closed. I might be awake, but there was no way I was going to acknowledge that fact without protest. Through my eyelids I could tell the sun was up, and that it was bright. Maybe it was late enough that it was worth getting up. I slowly sat at the edge of the bed. I didn't want my head to ring any louder than it had to, and I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't ring at all. It was definitely later than I thought if my hangover was gone. I stretched with a jaw breaking yawn and then rubbed my face. I immediately opened my eyes when my hand touched my face, the shape was all wrong. The room was immensely bright for a moment as I opened my eyes and then it faded to normal level. The first thing I noticed as I pulled my hand away was that there was fur on it. It was orange with small black stripes. It went up my arm to my shoulder, chest . . . I touched my face again, not quite believing what I saw; the shape that had felt wrong was a muzzle. On top of my head, among the hair I had two fan like ears; they twitched under my touch. I slowly looked behind me and a tail lay on the bed; it started twitching as a grin spread on my face. I ran to the bathroom. I had to confirm what I thought I was seeing. In the mirror over the sink a tiger's face looked back at me. The top of its muzzle and forehead were orange with black stripes. It had an uneven white mask around caramel coloured eyes and the fluffy white fur from its belly went up its neck, under its muzzle and up its cheeks. I wriggled *my* cheek and the whiskers moved in response. I guess I should have been stunned, confused and maybe even scared, but only one thought was in my head. "This is the coolest dream ever," I said out loud. My voice had gone down at least an octave. There was no way Jess would tell me I could pass myself off as a woman over the phone anymore. I looked at my hands again, there was no fur on the palm and the underside of my fingers, but the skin was tougher than it had been. I ran a finger across is; I didn't seem to have lost any of the sensitivity there. I flexed my fingers, and claws came out from their tip. They weren't big, maybe half an inch in length, but they were sharp. I ran a hand along my arm. I could feel the muscles under the fur, they felt hard. I tightened the bicep and it got bigger, large enough that I could see some definition through the fur. I was ecstatic; I'd never had anything I could call muscles before. After that I ran my hand down my stomach. I couldn't see them because the fur was longer, but I could feel the six pack there. My eyes moved further down almost of their own accord. I don't know how I had managed to wait this long before looking at it, but my cock was standing proud. It was long and thick. I knew that it would be almost nine inch in length if I measured it since everything else matched the image of my dream lover perfectly. I ran a finger along the short barbs and my entire body shivered at the pleasure I felt. I was able to resist jerking off long enough to look at my legs. They too were muscular. The white belly fur continued down over my balls and on the inside of my legs, although it became shorter and came to a point under my knees. My feet were fully human, except for the fur and claws. Once that was done I came back to my balls. I wrapped a hand around them; they were more than a handful now, and massaging them felt much better than before. The ways I could go about pleasuring myself flashed in my head. I could spend weeks exploring the different ways this body reacted to stimulation, but I realized there was one thing I wanted to try before I had any chance to wake up. I sat down on the floor, hooked my arms under my knees and . . . lets just say that I confirmed that I was very flexible, that doing it myself was fun, but it didn't beat getting someone else to do to me and that it taste much better than it used to. Once I was done and had taken time to catch my breath I figured I should go outside, see what the world looked like through these new eyes. Getting dressed proved to be easy. The nice thing about being over weight is that it's easier to tighten a belt than try to loosen it past its last hole. It did occur to me that since this was a dream I didn't really have to wear anything, but everything felt so real that I decided to just go with it. I did have to forgo shoes. My feet had increased in size like the rest of me so none of those I had fit. I didn't think it would matter much. The sole of my feet was like my palm, but more so; the skin was hard and I couldn't feel all that much when I pressed on it. I wasn't going to test it by walking on broken glass, but I was confident I could do it without hurting myself. I finally checked the time when I unplugged my cell, it was almost eleven and I had a message. "Jim, it's Pat. Something really weird's going on here and Harry's not answering his phone." He sounded really worried. "Can you call me as soon as you get this, please?" I spent the ride down to the ground floor trying to figure out how I was going to hold my cell to my ear and still be able to talk in it. I waved to the guard and ignored his shocked expression; I wasn't going to let other's reactions bother me inside my own dream. I dialed Pat's number and put the phone to my ear, the only solution I'd come up with was to talk louder. "Jim! Thank God you called. Are you ok?" Jim asked, frantic. "Of course I'm fine." There was a moment's hesitation. "Are you sure you're ok. You're voice sounds odd." I swallowed a chuckle. He was in for a surprise when he saw me. "Must be a problem with the phone. What's going on?" I smiled at the people on the sidewalk, amused at their fearful reactions. "Harry's not answering his phone. I'm scared something's happened to him." "Are you sure he hasn't just left already?" "Of course I'm sure," he answered harshly, "his coach called me to find out why he's missed his flight." "Ok, ok, no need to bite my head off. What can I do?" "Can you meet us at Harry's place? Sounds like you're the only one of us that's ok." "Yeah, sure. I'll grab a taxi and head there directly." I hung up and flagged the first taxi I saw. Instead of slowing down he sped up so I flagged another one, who did the same thing. "Fine," I said under my breath, "if that's the game we're going to play." I stepped in front of the next one. It screeched to a halt and before the driver even had time to realize what had happened I was sitting in the back. "I need to go to fifty-eight fifty-three Grand Alley," I told him as I put a fifty through the grill separating us. The driver was staring at me in the mirror, not moving. What I could see of his reflection made him a good looking guy, black curly hair, square clean shaven jaw with a slight tan. If the rest of his body looked like I imagined it, I'd happily do him. I tapped the grill, making the fifty fall on his side. "I'm in a bit of a hurry, how about you start driving instead of staring?" I gave him a smile that exposed my teeth. His head snapped forward and with a strangled 'yes sir' the car sped off. I spent the ride imagining what I could do with the driver. I didn't try to guess what was going on with Pat or Harry, or even where the dream might be going. I'd never had a dream before where I'd realize I was dreaming so I didn't know if there was any kind of rules. Since I wanted this to last as long as possible I was simply going to go along with everything. "How much do I owe you?" I asked once the car stopped in front of Harry's building. "It's ok," the driver answered nervously, "it's all covered." I took out two twenties. "I'm serious, that was just to get you to drive faster." "It's really ok," he said quickly, a pleading look on his face. "Please, I have to go pickup another fare." "Oh, yeah, sure." I stepped out of the taxi and leaned back in. "Any chance I can get your number?" I barely had the time to get my head out of the way as he slammed his foot down on the gas. "I'll take that as a no," I said as I watched the car speed away. I turned and walked toward my friends who were standing near the entrance to the building. The three of them wore a shocked expression on their face, but Mike looked really good with it. I couldn't put my finger in it, but he looked much better than usual, and he usually looked pretty good. "I thought you said you were ok." Pat almost yelled as I got closer. He looked like he'd slept in the clothes he was wearing. I realized he was wearing the same clothes as last night, so he had slept in them. And as I got close enough I could also tell he hadn't showered. "I am ok." Pat looked me up and down. "You call *that* being ok?" "Of course," I replied and then nodded to Mike, "looking good Mike. Hi Jess." "What the hell is wrong with you?" Pat actually yelled this time. I looked at him, trying to understand why he was such a basket case today. "I'm fine," I reassured him, "as long as I don't wake up, I'm just perfect." Pat stared at me in astonishment. "Jim, honey, this isn't a dream." I smiled at Jess. "Of course it is. I don't look like this when I'm awake." Mike rolled his eyes. "You really think you're dreaming?" he asked me in a very annoyed tone. I nodded. "Then this should wake you up." And he slapped me. At least that's what the motion was. When his hand connected with my cheek there was so much force behind it that my head spun away, and the rest of my body followed. I spun in the air and crashed to the ground with a groan. "Ouch," I said as I turned on my back. Saying that also hurt. "Shit Jim, I'm sorry. I forgot, I'm still not used to being so strong." I didn't really pay attention to what he was saying. I was touching my tender jaw; it was crooked. Mike's blow had broken my lower jaw. As I realized that I felt a sharp pain, and it moved back in place. After that there was no pain, even my cheek felt fine. When I paid attention to Mike again Jess was scolding him. "There was no need to do that. I could just as easily pinched him." "Pinching isn't a proof of anything," I said before I could stop myself. Jess glared at me. "Do you want me to tell Mike to hit you again?" "No, that's ok. I believe you. I'm not dreaming." Mike offered his hand and pulled me up. I looked at my hands again. I'd gotten my wish. I was the tiger I'd imagine being, and I had Wolverine's healing ability. Which mean that my other wish had also come true. I looked at where the cab had been parked. I had twenty hours or so to get laid before I got the blue balls I'd wanted to experience. Based on the reaction of everyone I came across today I was going to have them for quite a while. I looked at Jess to get my mind off that thought. "You don't look any different," I said. "That's because I was smart to say I could transform into a woman, unlike a dufus I know who got himself stuck looking like a fur rug." "You should have heard him scream this morning when he changed for the first time." Mike said. Jess glared at him. "Hey, I was surprised. I would have like to seen you react to seeing someone else in the mirror." I kept my mouth shut. "Still," Mike continued, "you shrieked like a girl." "That's because I *was* a girl." Jess retorted. "Are we done with the comedy routine already?" Pat growled angrily. "For all we know Harry's dying and you guys are standing here wasting time." "Calm down, dear," Jess said trying to sooth him, "you have no way of knowing that anything's wrong with him." "We got our wishes, right?" I asked. "He just wanted to be smart, how dangerous can that be? He probably just got lost in some science book he finally understands." "Alright," Pat replied, taking a deep breath, "can we still hurry up and go check in on him?" "Ok," Mike said before turning to me, "you're probably going to want to stay out of view until we're back." I tried to raise an eyebrow, and instead felt an ear tilt sideways. "Look around, it's a little late for that." A crowd had started gathering at a safe distance. "The cat's out of the bag." Jess groaned and Pat rolled his eyes. "You never were in the fucking bag to start with." With that he turned and headed for the door. I smiled at Mike and shrugged as I walked by him to follow Pat. The entrance door required an electronic key to unlock, or to be buzzed in by the guard, but Pat simply said "open" as he put his hand on the handle and the door opened when he pushed it. He did the same thing for the door leading from the lobby to the elevator and then pressed the elevator call button. The three of us stood next to him as he fidgeted and pressed the button again. I looked at the indicators and all six elevators were going up. "Come on," Pat grumbled as he looked at them too. "Hurry up and get down here already." A moment later all the number started moving down, very fast. The elevator to our far right was the first one to ding and open its door. Before we could go to it the one right to our left dinged and then the one in front of us. As we watch the four people in it hold on to the rail for dear life the other three elevators dinged. "Sorry," said Pat as he stepped on. I got on next and the man and three women recoiled at my presence. Before Mike could get on they fled the elevator. With all of us on Pat pressed the button for the forty-third floor. Harry's number was fifty eight, it was a corner unit. I was sometime jealous of his condo, but all I had to do was remember that he paid three times more than I did and I was ok with my tenth floor, middle of the wall apartment. Pat put a hand on the handle and whispered "lock, open." The light on the door lock turned green. "Why are you whispering?" Jess asked, also in a whisper. "My voice carries too far here." He answered at a normal volume, "If I'm not careful every lock that hears it will do what I say. I caused a power failure in my neighborhood this morning. I yelled at all the appliance in my house to shut down because they were too loud, but my window was open and there was a power box right at the corner of my house." He pushed the door, but the chain on the inside prevented it from opening. "Damn him and his locks." He put his shoulder against the door and forced it. "Harry," Pat called as the chain snapped. "Harry!" Pat ran to the body lying on the living room floor. We gathered around the jock. He was on his back, eyes opened and glazed over, drool running down the side of his mouth. Pat shook him before looking up at us. "What the hell's wrong with him? How can becoming smart leave him like that?" I didn't have a clue. It was Jess who offered a possibility. "I think he's too smart." He said softly. "How can he be too smart? Are you saying he should have remained a dumb jock?" "Of course not, but he wished to be smarter than the four of us put together. We're all pretty smart to start with so that give him and IQ of what, four or five hundred? At that level he can probably grasp the entire universe." "What's wrong with understanding the universe?" Jess knelt next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Honey, it doesn't matter how smart he is. I don't think the human mind is capable of holding all the information needed to understand the universe." "So what are we suppose to do with him then? Hook him up to a machine that's going to keep him alive for the rest of his life?" "He still got two wishes." I said. Pat glared at me. "And how much help is that with him in this state? How are you going to get him to say his wish?" "Jim's right," Mike said, "and we don't have to get him to say it. We never used the word 'say' only 'make'. As long as he can make his wish it should come true." "But how can we get him to make it. Is he even still in there?" Pat asked, almost panicking "You're going to have to get through to him." Jess told him. Pat nodded resolutely. "Right, so all I have to do is talk him into wishing he was less smart." "Use a number," Mike said, "using 'less smart' is too vague. You have no way of knowing how Harry or the wish will interpret it." "Ok, what number then?" "Well," Jess said, "I think Einstein IQ was two hundred." Pat looked at him and nodded. "Two fifty then. There's no way I'm going to have Harry be dumber than that guy." Pat lay next to the football player. "Harry, it's Patrick." He spoke softly, but with my keen hearing I had no problem listening in. I folded my ears against my head and went into Harry's bedroom; it was the furthest room, and with the door closed I couldn't hear what Pat was saying. I didn't want to hear it, it too much of a reminder of what they had shared once and thrown away. Of something I'd never even gotten a taste of. Harry's bedroom wasn't the center of vanity you'd expect of a football player on the road to stardom. There was only one football related picture on the wall and it wasn't of Harry. It was a team picture of the college team he'd played on. The other two on the walls were a print of a mountain as one of a cloudy sky. On the night table was a picture of his parents and sister. I'd never met them, but he'd shown me pictures before. Next to it was one with two young boys; nephews I guessed. I'd never been in this room before, and the urge to snoop was pretty strong, but I went to the attached bathroom instead for a glass of water. Drinking with a muzzle took some getting use to. I managed it, but about half the content ended up running down my chin. I was going to have to remember to buy larger glasses for my place or I'd have to start lapping water out of a bowl. I'd just finished toweling the floor dry when I heard Par yell Harry's name, so I rushed back to the living room. Harry was sitting, still looking dazed. Pat grabbed Harry's head and turned it so he would look at him. "Are you ok?" It took Harry a moment a focus on him and when he did he smiled. "I'm fine. Hi guys," he added when he noticed the rest of us. "You too, huh?" He said that looking at me. He stood, a little unsteady. "I take it we're all received out wishes." He walked to the kitchen and took a jug of orange juice from the fridge. He took a swallow before offering it to us. We passed so he finished it. "What happened to you?" Pat asked, he'd been fidgeting, trying to restrain the question while Harry drank. The jock stared in space for a moment before focusing on us again. "I got here after walking you home, closed the door, headed for my bedroom, but before I reached it I had a thought." He paused for a moment before looking at Pat. "And then I heard you whispering to me." "So you don't remember anything?" Jess asked. Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry," Pat told him. "Don't be. I'd rather be here and conscious than stuck in lala land, no matter what I might have known during that time." "What do we do now?" Jess asked as Pat hugged Harry. "That's easy," Mike said, "Harry uses his last wish to undo ours and get things back to normal.
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 05

    Part 5: Resolutions I don't remember anything about the run itself, but when I stopped I was in the school gym. I was too busy fretting over what I was going to do about killing a man to wonder why I'd come here, I mean I'd just damned myself to Hell, how was I going to get out of *that*? "Are you ok Jayson?" I stopped my pacing to look up at Coach Warner standing across the room. My first thought was to run out, but he was blocking the door. "Jayson, what's wrong?" He started walking toward me and I backed up until I was against a weight rack. He wasn't blocking the door anymore. I could run past him and flee, but my legs weren't listening to me. I couldn't stay here, I couldn't let him find out what I'd done and damn him by association. He placed his hands on my shoulders. "Whatever it is Jayson, you can talk to me." His touch was gentle and I could see the worry and caring in his eyes. For a moment I wanted to tell him everything, I even opened my mouth before I regained my senses and pushed him away hard. He backpedalled and by the time he'd regain his balance he was almost back in the door way. "Damn it Jayson, I'm trying to help." "You can't help! I'm damned and there's nothing anybody can do about it!" "You're not damned Jayson. Trust me; I know a thing or two about these things." He took a step in my direction and I screamed. I grabbed a weight plate off the rack and threw it in his direction to force him to stay away. Only after it left my hand did I realize it was a twenty-five pound weight, that I'd thrown it with all my strength and that I'd aimed it directly at him. Time seemed to stretch into infinity as I realized I was about to kill another man. Coach Warner caught the weight in one hand and placed it on the floor. "You need to calm down Jayson." He crossed to room again. The shock of what he'd done kept me frozen in place. He'd caught the plate. That thing should have gone through him and then two or three walls after that with all the strength I'd put in the throw. He wrapped his arms around me and held me tight. "Tell me what's got you so scared." The way he was holding me against him felt so good, warm and safe. "I killed someone," I said softly. He didn't tense up at the news, he just kept holding me. I started crying. He let me cry for a few minutes. "How did it happen?" I told him everything; the attacks, Maggie and Marvin protecting me and what I did to the man I'd killed. I didn't stop crying while I talked. At some point he let go of me. I don't how long I'd been crying, but the front of his shirt was soaking wet. "I need to go take care of something," he said looking me in the eyes, "I want you to promise me you'll stay here until I get back." I nodded and he left. I kept standing there for a while, unsure of what to do. There were all those weight machines I could use to keep myself busy, but I didn't feel like using them, I was too tired. I sat down in a corner, brought my knees against me, folded my arms over them and rested my head. I was woken up by voices in the corridor, Coach Warner speaking with someone else. "You're the one who got me into this so you're going to help out," the coach said. "I was not given a choice," the other replied in a deep and vibrant voice, "he requested you personally." "You could have said no." "Not quite, I owed him this favor." "I'm not saying you should have said no, I'm actually liking it here, but he needs your help. You know I'm more of a sword and shield kind of guy, that's not what he needs." They entered the room and the coach's friend surprised me, from the voice I'd expected someone tall and broad shouldered like him; instead he was shorter than I was and didn't look muscular at all in dress pants and baggy shirt. "Jayson," Coach Warner said as I stood, "I'd like you to meet Al, he's," there was a moment of hesitation, "a friend of mine." "Thor has told me some of what happened to you," Al said standing straight and commanding. I gulped. "What I need to know from you is why it came to this." I tried to answer, but I found myself staring at the floor instead. "Thor, would you leave us alone please?" "Sure thing, I have to make a few calls anyway. I'll be in my office if you need me." "Jayson, please look at me," Al said a few moments later. I did and found myself gazing into his eyes. They were grey like storm clouds and I could have sworn that just like clouds the colors were shifting. "Now, tell me why someone who has the training to fight let it come to the point where you lost control." "I don't know how to fight," I said weakly. "Thor has told me that you are a trained martial artist." "It's not the same thing. In class it's controlled, my opponent knows the moves I'll make and what to do against them. In the tournaments I do worry about hurting someone, that's why I don't fight as hard as I could, but at least I know that we're all trained. Out there, I don't know what to expect." "So killing that man was an accident?" "No," I said with shame, "I got angry that he hurt Maggie, but once I started punching him my anger became about being pushed around and not able to do anything about it as well as all the other things I can't do so I won't stand out." "That can't, or won't do?" "Same difference; unless you haven't noticed this town isn't exactly tolerant of anyone who's different." "I have just arrived. I have not had the time to observe." "Trust me, in this place if you don't fit within a mold they consider normal you're shit out of luck." Al gave me a small smile and then looked around. His gaze stopped on each machines in the room and I could see him judging them and not being impressed. Finally he went to the Lat workout machine. "Thor has also mentioned that you believe you are damned." "Well yeah. I killed a guy. That's a straight line to Hell." "I was under the impression that your god was a forgiving one." "I can't ask him to forgive that," I said looking at my blood covered hands, "What I did is just too horrible." It hit me that I hadn't even thought about how I was going to face my parents. "Before the thoughts you are currently having depress you so much you cannot do anything productive come help me." Al's commanding tone snapped me out of it and I joined him by the machine. He was crouched down placing the pin in one of the lower plate in the weight stack; he pointed at the bar above my head. "Please grab it and pull." I did and at least three hundred pounds of weight went up. "Pull it until it is as high as it will go." I followed his instructions, and then he kicked me in the stomach. The kick had more strength then someone his size should have and I lost my balance, falling back over the bench and letting go of the bar. I hit my head on the floor and the ringing mixed with the clang of the plates reaching bottom. "What was that for?" The ringing quickly subsided as I stood and the pain was a dull throb. I completely forgot about it when I saw that Al's hand was under the fallen plates. "What did you do?" He pulled his hand out and wriggled his fingers. "I have demonstrated that I am not easily hurt." I looked at his moving fingers and the strength of the kick came back to me. "You're a parahuman." I stated. He seemed to think about it for a moment and then had a knowing smile. "If that term helps understand the situation, then yes, I am one." Something else occurred to me. "Coach Warner is one too!" Al didn't say anything he just looked at me with that smile. "But what does it mean?" "It means that if you let me I am capable of helping you." "How?" "The training you need is in dealing with the unexpected. You are aware of this, but have not looked for help in this regard, presumably because you fear what the people you ask would think due to the mind set in this locale." "So?" "So, I am not from here, nor do I share the local attitude. I have seen to the training of many warriors and I can help you overcome this weakness so that you will not have to fear needlessly hurting someone else again." I looked at him dubiously. "Ok, but why are you even offering to help?" "Because Thor asked me to." "Except he's only here because you sent him." He leveled his gaze on me. "You overheard our discussion." "I have pretty sharp ears," I said with a smile, enjoying the feeling of having put one over him. "An old acquaintance asked for a favor to repay a favor and I agreed, sending Thor here to look over you." "But why?"Al didn't answer me. "The attacks." He nodded. "The coach was supposed to protect me? But he never did anything?" "If Thor had felt you needed more protection than you already had he would have intervened." "Do you know who's behind it?" "No, I was not provided with that information." "Then how about why?" He was silent for a moment, studying me. "I do not know, but I am starting to have suspicions." "Are you going to tell me?" he shook his head. "Arrrg! Why won't anyone tell me anything?" this was infuriating. "Because you are a child and we are the adults." I spun on my heels and glared at him hand closing into fists. I wasn't just some kid he could speak down to, I was sixteen. "You wish to strike me," he stated as if he'd read my mind, "what is stopping you? Why are you not doing it? Do you believe I cannot take it?" The sneer in his tone is what made me lose control, my fist flew at him and he caught it in a hand. Then I was flying over him to land on my back with my arm outstretch and his knee on my throat. "Consider this your first lesson in the unexpected; not everyone you will try to strike will be unable to avoid the blow." He let me go as Coach Warner knocked on the door frame. "Can you guys be disturbed? Jayson's friends are here to see him." "That is quite alright, I am done with Jayson for the moment." "Good." He left and moments later Maggie and Marvin ran in. "Maggie, your arm?" the sling over it was the first thing I saw, then I noticed the cuts and bruises on her face. She looked down at it. "Oh, it's nothing, you know me I was just climbing a building and fell." Climbing a building? Falling? "Hi," she said looking at Al, "I don't know who you are, but do you mind leaving us alone?" "Not at all," he answered, "Jayson, talk with Thor when you are done with your friends, he will let you know when to come see me. Please follow me Thor." Coach Warner rolled his eyes before following Al. Marvin checked that they were out of earshot. "Why did you run off like that?" I looked at my feet. "I couldn't stay there after what I did." "Because you fought him?" Maggie asked. "No, because I killed him." "No you didn't," she said "Of course I did. I beat him to a pulp; no one could have survived that." "They took him out in an ambulance," Marvin said, "I'm pretty sure they don't bother doing that when they're dead." I stared at them. He wasn't dead. I hadn't killed him. I heart flew in relief, and my knees failed. The next think I knew Marvin was keeping me standing. "Don't pass out on us, wouldn't look good for the hero to faint." I hadn't killed him. It took a few moments for my legs to be steady under me. I hadn't killed him. "What happened after I left?" I was eventually able to ask. "I carried Maggie to my car and went to the closest phone booth. I called 911 and waited out of sight to see what the cops were going to do." "What they did," Maggie continued, "was look the scene over, call the Ambulance and then everybody left." "How did you know I was here?" "The coach called me, he said he'd found you here shaken up and bloody. He said that you'd been in a fight and that we should come quickly. Who was that?" Maggie asked. "That's Al, he's a friend of the coach. He said he can help me defend myself." Marvin looked at me. "You don't need any help defending yourself, did you see the number you did on that guy? I don't even understand why Maggie wants us to look out for you." The memory of the fight made my stomach churn and I forced myself to remember that he wasn't dead. "I don't want to ever do that again." "But why? You're a natural at this." I felt like hitting him, but he wouldn't survive it; or maybe he would with that Norse thing of his, but I really didn't want to fight him. "Maggie, why don't you explain things to him? I have to go talk with Coach Warner and then head home. I've missed dinner and my folks are going to worry." The door to the coach's office was open and he was sitting behind his desk. "Where's Al?" I asked after looking around the office and closing the door. "He went home." I sat down in one of the chairs facing him "Why didn't you tell Maggie and Marvin that you know about them?" "Because it isn't something they need to know. Being a hero here requires anonymity, if they realize I know it'll just add one worry over everything they have to think about." "Did you know about them before I told you?" Coach Warner shook his head. "I knew someone was looking out for you, but that was it. It never occurred to me that Margaret would be one to take to the fight." "Marvin?" "The vibs I got off him made me suspect he was a parahuman, but he didn't seem the type to do anything with it." I shrugged; I hadn't known him before he got forced into the part of hero. "Al said you'd know when I should train with him." "He was thinking that you could train with him instead of going to your Karate class." * * * * * "Jayson Mortimer," mom said in a stern tone the moment I opened the door, "where have you been? Dinner was two hours ago." "Sorry mom," I said as meekly as possible, "I met one of Coach Warner's friends and then I found out Maggie got hurt." "Maggie's hurt? What happened? Will she be ok?" "Yeah she'll be fine, she broke her arm," I smiled a little at having diverted her anger. "That's good, I'll keep her in my prayer tonight, but that's no excuse not call us to tell us you'll miss dinner." "I know, I'm sorry mom," I smiled mischievously. "Maybe if I had a cell phone it would be easier for me to let you know that stuff." She looked at me. "I don't think so; you're far too young to get one of those." "Plenty of guys at school have them." "And plenty of *young* people at your school smoke; it doesn't mean I'll let you do that too. Now come on, I'll reheat your dinner and then you can go to your room, you have school tomorrow." I nodded, I hadn't expected her to agree to it, to be honest I wasn't even interested in one but it was something else for my mom to focus on instead of my lateness. "Mom, what would you think if I stopped going to Karate class?" "Stop? Why do you want to stop going? I thought you liked it." "I do, but the coach's friend I met, he knows martial art too, and he could teach me, but I don't really have time to do both, and he wouldn't charge anything." Mom looked at me dubiously. "He's willing to do it for free? Are you sure he doesn't have some ulterior motive?" "Come on mom, he's the coach's friend. Coach Warner would never let him do anything bad." "Maybe, but I think I'll want to meet him before I agree." "Sure mom." I introduced them a few days later and she liked him, on the way home she said that he had an old style charm to him, whatever that meant. Al's training method was weird. Him and me would fight and at random times Coach Warner would throw a box at me. In the box could pretty much anything, a vase, a five pound dumbbell, a beach ball or even eggs. The only way I had to know what was in it was to read the description on the box as it was flying at me while Al was trying to beat the crap out of me. He didn't pull his punches and he was much better than I had imagined. He said it would teach me to pay attention to my surrounding while not losing my focus. I don't know if it did that, all I know is that I broke a lot of their dishes during that first month of training. On the twenty third of February my birthday came and went without too much fanfare; I turned seventeen. Maggie, Eddy, and yes, even Marvin were the only ones I invited. As much as I tried to hate the guy Marvin was very likable, he was funny, pretty intelligent, and good looking; his trenchcoat hid how muscular he was. Most of his jokes were at the expense of the Norse gods and that caused the one moment of discomfort during my birthday. I had to explain to my mom that he wasn't trying to convert anyone; his jokes were just that, jokes. She didn't get entirely comfortable about it, but Marvin did manage to get her to laugh. My parent's gift was a driving course. * * * * * "Hey guys," Maggie said as she sat down next to us, "have you heard?" Me and Marvin looked at her. "About what?" I asked. We didn't see Eddy that often during lunch time anymore. He was spending more and more time with his girlfriend. He'd introduced her to us and for a while she ate with us. She was pretty nice, but definitely from a different social circle. He still did his best t hang out with us, but travelling in the higher class took up a lot of his time, and with March break coming up they were busy planning their trip to Aspen. "There's a lawyer in Denver that's trying to get the Good Samaritan law over turned?" "What's that?" Marvin asked. We both stared at him. "Man," I said in a lowered voice, "if you're going to be in the super hero biz you really should know about that law." "So explain it to me." "The law was setup back in the sixties to prevent villains from suing heroes over damages they received." Maggie explained. "Now it's been extended to also protect the heroes from lawsuit for collateral damages caused from fighting a villain." "So a hero can do anything when fighting a villain and not worry about it?" "Well, not anything, Excessive force can still override the Samaritan law; that would be based on the perceived danger to civilians, but the hero would have to prove his case in court." "What about civilians who get hurt in the fight?" "Unless they can prove negligence on the part of the hero they'll have to rely on their insurance." "So how is that lawyer trying to overturn it?" "He claims that it's unconstitutional; that Mister Terror is entitled for full compensation for not being able to work his normal job because Thunderclap put him in the hospital for 2 month while stopping him from robbing a bank." Marvin looked at me for help, but I shrugged, there was no way I was able to keep all those parahumans straight even if I wanted to. I knew Mister Terror was some sort of second string villain who could make people afraid, but I had no idea who Thunderclap was. "Anyway, I'd be surprised if it'll even make it to court, no judge in their right mind would ever even consider it." Maggie was right; two days later the case was thrown out. March break was marked with Fist and Viking stopping an attempt on Blue Jay's life by Bloodhound. Being a parahuman signer she was Maggie's favorite and the three of us had gone to her concert in Houston; Marvin even let me practice my driving on the way. The concert was uneventful until after the intermission. In the middle of her first song this guy dressed in a leather dog costume jumped down from the rafter and started tearing up the stage. Blue Jay wasn't a hero, she could only create a nimbus of blue light around herself and objects, still she did all she could to keep his attention on her while the musicians ran off the stage. When Bloodhound did manage to get his hand on her he shook her about and then threw her at one of the supports for the lighting gear, only to be caught by Viking. Marvin and Maggie had pulled a quick disappearing act as soon as bloodhound appeared. The fight was quick compared to those you see in the movies, but compared to real parahuman fights it dragged on for ten minutes. In the end Maggie had to throw a grenade and Viking had to amplify the effect with magic just to stun bloodhound; that gave Maggie time to shove a rag soaked in Ether, finally rendering him unconscious. Blue Jay tried to get them to stay on stage while she finished her show, but they declined and disappeared backstage. What surprised me the most through all that was how calm the crowd had been. The people in the first rows moved back, but no one panicked. They were worried and fearful; they knew enough to realize this wasn't part of the show, but even those who left did so calmly. I thought about helping out, but I didn't have any way to hide my identity. Maggie and Marvin missed the two songs Blue Jay performed after they were able to get the stage to working order. They had had a hard time finding a place to change out of their costume since a lot of people used the time as second intermission. I distracted them through most of the third song by apologizing over and over for not helping out. In the motel room where we spent the night Maggie couldn't stop talking about how she'd gotten to meet Blue Jay, even on the drive back the next morning she was still beaming. When we got home we learned that the fight had been recorded and every news show was showing it. One of the news anchor called Viking and the Fist 'misfits' and within a week everyone had adopted it, making it, much to Marvin's concerns, their team's name. A lot of stations tried to track them down for an interview, but they managed to avoid them while continuing their occasional patrol. And while a few reporters hung around longer trying to find them. The news stations moved on to someone else within a few days. * * * * * The mood at school changed after spring break, this was the last stretch before summer vacation; everyone studied a little more and partied a little less. No one wanted to fail their year, even Billy was now leaving me mostly alone since he didn't want to be held back another year. Maggie spent most of her school days studying so she'd have her weekends free to patrol. Marvin didn't seem to be worried about studying at all. I wasn't worries about my grades either; I knew I was going to pass all my exams without having to cram and I didn't have a need to be the best like a lot of the others at the school did. Coach Warner did convince me to practice my running; he challenged me to place second or even first without giving away I was a parahuman. That made me very nervous, I'd spent my time making sure I didn't attract attention, and now I'd be putting myself extremely close to the spotlight, and even in it. I thought about saying no, but he'd been there for me and I didn't want to let him down. I was on the track every afternoon before my training with Al and every other chance I got. I needed to get perfect control over my speed, if I was going to be noticed I couldn't afford any accidental bursts. I placed third in the trials we had in mid April. I was aiming for second place, but I lost my nerves just as I caught up to Melanie. I'd never been faster than her before; wouldn't people start wondering how I'd done it. Maybe there would be a drug test; could parahuman abilities be detected that way? Next thing I knew the race was over. Coach Warner didn't show any signs he was disappointed I hadn't beaten her, but I felt like I'd let him down anyway. So now I was training even harder; that's why I didn't notice I had an audience until I finished my five minute mile. Randall Mitchell was leaning against the doorframe, watching me intently. I ignored him while I cooled down, it wasn't the first time he's been watching me; it was creepy, but he never did anything. He blocked my way when I headed to the lockers. "Good to see you finally pushing yourself Mortimer." "I didn't know you were a fan of Track, Mitchell. Now if you don't mind I need to change and go home," I said as I tried to pass him. "Oh, I do mind," he replied pushing me back. "Didn't Bill warn you about bugging me?" "That bully's an idiot. The only reason I hung around him was because I thought his bullying would be what made you accept what you are." He swung at me. "And what's that?" I asked as I dodged it, "the low man on the totem pole?" I punched him in the stomach. It felt good to finally hit someone back. "Is that all you got," he said wheezing for a few breath. He straightened and took a deep breath. "Ok, lets see what you've got." He rushed me. He swung, I blocked, he swung again and I dodged. He wasn't a good fighter, but he had strength behind his blows. When I saw my opening I struck him in the shoulder. He staggered back and smiled at me. "Is that it?" That blow should have sent him back much farther. We exchanged more blows before I was able to kick him in the face. "That's more like it," he said shaking his head. He gave me a vicious smile as he wiped the blood of his cheek. The cut I'd inflicted closed itself as I watched. Another parahuman? Was this school some sort of parahuman training ground? I started hitting him harder with each strike, but he barely felt them. In contrast his punches had more and more strength behind them. None of them connected, but I could feel it each time I blocked. I gave it everything I had and he barely reacted to it. "What's it like being just like everyone else?" Mitchell asked as he grabbed me by the collar and threw me against the wall. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder as it connected with the brick and more pain as I crumpled to the ground. I sat up to watch Mitchell walk toward me with a satisfied expression on his face. He looked down on me and lifted his fist. "Time to end this; it's been great knowing you loser." Before he could bring it down a hand wrapped around his wrist and held it in place. Mitchell turned to look at Coach Warner as he tried to pull out of the grip. "What do you think you're doing Randall?" "Whatever I want," he answered. He lifted the coach over himself and threw him to the track. Coach Warner landed, rolled and was back on his feet in a crouch. Mitchell took a step toward him but stopped and looked at me. "Don't go anywhere," he said before heading back to the coach. I tried standing while they fought, but the moment I started putting my legs under me my head started spinning. When I gave up Coach Warner walking toward me, dragging Mitchell by a leg; he dropped him a few feet away. "How are you feeling?" "It hurts, al lot." "You have a nasty gash on your forehead." "It hasn't healed yet?" I asked touching it and wincing in pain. "I think Randall's some sort of leech. He stole your parahuman abilities." I thought about it for a moment. "He's going to wake up soon if he heals as fast as I normally do." Coach Warner nodded and went inside, coming back with a roll of duck tape. He taped Mitchell's arms together behind his back and then wrapped them in tape from the wrist to the above the elbow. He also taped his ankles together before calling the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital amidst the police cursing about having another parahuman in town. I ended up with a sling to hold my arm still, stitches for the cut on my forehead and some pain killers. It meant I couldn't run in the next race at school, I couldn't even run just for the fun of it since every time my foot hit the ground my shoulder hurt. Al did decide it was the perfect time to work on avoiding hits. Much to the doctor's surprise my shoulder was fully healed in only two weeks, but it wasn't until mid May that I felt I was back to full strength. Being as close to 'normal' as I could get made me realize that I did cherish my abilities; I hadn't really thought about where they'd come from, no one really knew although they were hundreds of theories out there. Now I realized that they were a God given gift, and I couldn't spend my life ignoring or hiding them. I didn't want to attract attention, but Maggie and Marvin were both heroes and still managed to have a normal life. Still, I needed to get someone's permission before I started on a hero career. "Mom, can I talk to you?" I asked as she walked by my room with the laundry basket. "Of course Honey, is everything alright?" She put the basket on the floor and sat next to me on my bed. "Yes, I just have to tell you something." "Ok, what is it?" "It's about me, and it's pretty big." I had to pause to figure out how to say it. "It's probably going to change how you and dad think about me, but I want you to know that it's still me, I'm still your son and I hope you're still going to love me." She hugged me and kissed my head. "Oh Honey, I already know and I still love you." "You do? How?" "Jayson, I'm your mother," she said with a smile, "mother's have a sense about these things." I just looked at her, she knew? "It doesn't matter to me that you prefer guys over girls, love is love and will always be proud of you for loving someone." Wait, what? "How could you have picked up on that? I've always been careful not to let it show." She chuckles and waved at my room. "You need to work on your subtlety." I looked at the posters of athletes and martial artists I had on my walls. "I don't get it." "Where are the women? The pinup girls that every teenage boy is putting up on their bedroom walls, and then there's Maggie." "What about Maggie? I haven't done anything to her." "Exactly, she's turning until a beautiful young woman and yet you're happy just being her friend. That meant you were either blind, or gay, and I know you're not blind." I had no idea what to think, I was so sure I'd hidden that secret from them. "Does dad know?" "I think he suspects, but he hasn't said anything." "Do you think I should tell him?" "Whenever you're ready to tell him, he'll be ready to listen." I nodded. She moved in front of me and held me by the shoulders. "You don't have to be afraid, you'll always be our son; we will never stop loving you. That it be about the boyfriend you'll eventually find or anything else you decide to do in your life, we will support and encourage you. You are the most precious thing in our life." As she said that I could see tears falling down her cheeks. I hugged her tightly. "Thanks mom." She dried her eyes and picked up the basket, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I had just come out to my mom, and she was ok with it. I had never even though about telling her I was gay, I knew it was something that would come up one day, but I'd figured it was still years away. I smiled as I realized a weight I hadn't noticed until now was lifted off my chest. She was ok with me being gay. And in a roundabout way she'd given me permission to become a hero. * * * * * The school year ended without any other major surprise, I told dad I was gay a few days before graduation and it shocked him, He tried hard not to let it affect how he saw me, but it took him time to come to terms with it. It was no surprise that Maggie graduated at the top of her classes, me and Marvin were somewhere in the middle, and Mitchell didn't. After he attacked me he was transferred to a center for dangerous parahumans. The one small surprise was Bill, somehow he managed to graduate. After the graduation ceremony Marvin, Maggie and me went to the mall to celebrate; we're already worked it out with our parents, this was just for us. We had just left the restaurant when we heard the disturbance at the other end of the hall. "You've got to be kidding," Marvin said, "someone's trashing the place on graduation day?" "Maybe they figure the Misfits are too busy partying to intervene," I said. "Whoever they are, they're about to find out we're never too busy to kick some butts," Maggie said looking around for a place to change. "Are you joining in?" she asked me. I shook my head. "I still don't have a costume, remember?" I'd been trying to find an identity since the talk with mom. Marvin's suggestions had been to put on any old mask, but I wanted something that felt right. "You two go have fun, soon enough I'll be able to help out." With a nod they headed toward the noise while I stayed where I was. The crowd around me split into two, those heading toward the commotion and those heading away from it. At this rate it wouldn't take long for me to end up alone. Something caught my eye over the crowd. It was in the display window of a store. I waded through the crowd until I was close enough to see it was a half mask resting on a shelf; it was a cat's mask, with ears and even whiskers. The holes for the eyes were covered up with holographic lenses of cat's eyes. I walked in what turned out to be a novelty store and put it on; it was made of cheap leather with an elastic to hold it on my head and the visibility was quite good. I looked at myself in a mirror and I couldn't stop myself from smiling; it was definitely a cheap mask, but it looked right on me I added a black wig and I looked like . . . well, not like me that was for sure. I put the two price tags with thirty dollars behind the counter and made my way to the fight. "Stop moving so I can turn you into dog food," someone growled ahead. The crowd got thicker and I had to elbow my way through it. Once people got a look at me they gave me room. I made it to the railing to see the fight was on the level below; Viking and Fist were fighting Bloodhound. I paused for a moment as Bloodhound caught Viking's sword and flicked it away. Viking raised his shield just in time to take the blow that came next, but still went down to one knee. I jumped over the railing, landing in a crouch and catching everyone's attention. I looked at Bloodhound without getting up "here doggy doggy," I said softly before springing toward him. This was going to be fun. * * * * * EPILOQUE The older man entered the younger one's office closing the door behind him. "You wanted to see me sir?" "Yes Albert, I need you to inform the Combine that I won't need their services anymore." "Yes sir, I'll inform them we are terminating the contract." "No, we are severing all ties to them." "They will not be pleased with that." "That's not my problem. Point out to them that after ten month the target's still alive." "Multiple parahumans have been running interferences." "Why should I care? I paid them to take care of the problem, not to make excuses. I'll take care of this problem myself." "Very well sir, anything else?" "No, that's all." Once he was alone the younger man took a folder from a drawer and read through it. In it were the names of many men, and a few women as well as a list of their accomplishments. He took one out before putting the folder away. "I need you to get me in contact with Adrian Price," he said in his intercom. "Sir," the woman on the other end replied after a moment, "Mr. Price is currently in Atlanta." "And?" "In prison, awaiting trial." He took a deep breath to avoid snapping at her. "And that's a problem how?" Five minute later his phone rang. "Adrian, how long until you've solved your current predicament?" "A day or two, sir. Everyone's in place now. As soon as Whip is adequately distracted we'll be done." "Good. Once you're out I need to you locate and retrieve a new employee." "Yes, sir. What is his name?" "Joshua Hunter, you can start your search in Africa."
  16. Kindar

    Chapter 04

    Part 4: The breaking point After the attack all Maggie would talk about was Marvin, on the way to and back from school, during Karate classes, he was even sitting with us in the cafeteria. Did I know Marvin's family was originally from Norway? Did I know his ancestors were Vikings? Did I know Marvin's sword could now slice through metal? Did I know Marvin could do magic? It was Marvin this, Marvin that. It was driving me nuts. The guy was stealing my best friend without even trying. I did what I could to avoid him but it wasn't easy. Maggie enlisted him into protecting me. I let him know in no uncertain terms I didn't need his protection, it didn't stop him. Thanksgiving was the first break I got from Marvin. We drove to Dallas to celebrate it with my father's parents. It was the one time of the year Dad got to see his whole family. Grammy loved having us over, it gave her an excuse to cook. Every year it was a turkey, the stuffing changed each time as she experimented with different herbs. She made her own cranberry sauce as well as the pumpkin and apple pies. The only store bought things Grammy allowed for her thanksgiving dinner was the pop for the kids and wine for the adults. We left an hour early because traffic was always heavy on thanksgiving. We still got there late; Reverb and Boombox had torn down an overpass in another one of their fights so we had to detour through the city. Both had sound based powers, Reverb could generate sounds while Boombox could turn sound he heard into concussive blasts. They had been fighting for years now. She'd beat him into submission and he would escape from whatever prison she put him in then come right back after her. People described it as the rivalry of sounds. Me, I just thought they should get a room and work off the sexual tension there. That way the rest of us could go on with our lives. Because we were late the poker game was already under way. Grammy's tradition was cooking, Grampa's was poker. Grammy hugged and kissed me, she was a plump woman a little shorter than I was. Every time I saw her she was jovial. When I was younger I thought that her super power was to chase the bad things away, as I grew up I realized that bad stuff did affect her, she simply didn't let any of her grandkids see it. After the greeting my folks joined the game. They sat opposite Uncle Bert and Aunt Betty; dad's other sibling, Greg, was seated next to mom. Betty's husband DB, I never got anyone to tell me what the initials stood for, was next to Greg's wife Judith. Grampa and Grammy were seated at each end of the oval table. The fact that Bert's wife Elizabeth and his kids weren't here told me something was up more than the lack of wine glasses on the table. It was a poorly kept secret within the family that Bert had a drinking problem. Uncle Greg told me Bert was in the process of getting divorced and had joined AA in the hopes of getting some custody rights to his kids. The kids had a game going to, but I just watched them play, poker wasn't a game I cared for; I couldn't win at it. "Did you ever find out why you were attacked?" Lizzy asked me. She was fourteen and her name was Elizabeth, but there was already one in the family so everyone called her Lizzy. "No," I answered after remembering everyone knew about the first attack. I didn't feel I was lying, someone kept sending parahuman to kill me, but I didn't know why. "It must have been so cool being saved by a super hero," Benny said. He was eight and Lizzy's brother. His full name was Bernard, but he hated it and got us to call him Benny instead. "Yeah, is was," I lied as I ruffled his ginger hair. At his age he didn't need to be burdened with the reality of the fear and pain associated with the attack. "The Great Fireman came to our school last year," Marc said. Sam, his twin, nodded in agreement. "This year they are saying we're going to have Techknight give the year end speech." "Techknight? From the Justicars?" I asked incredulous. These two might go to an expensive school in Oklahoma City, but I somehow doubted the Justicars would send someone all the way from LA just to speak at a school. "Yes Sarah," Aunt Betty said to my mom, "why don't you tell us what came of it? I'm afraid it didn't make the Dallas news." "Nothing's come of it. The police are still looking for the parahuman who saved Jayson." "Why are they still looking?" she asked, looking at her cards before putting chips in the pot, "Didn't he give his statement?" "He murdered the men who were assaulting my son, so no, he didn't give a statement." Mom still had trouble resolving the gratitude she felt toward the parahuman who had saved me and the atrociousness of the way he had killed them. "That is simply horrible," Betty said, "how ever did Jayson cope?" "Jayson's tough," mom replied. She didn't know about my fear of a patch of sidewalk or how it took Maggie to force me to get over it. "Hopefully the media helped him get over it." "No reporters talked to my son," mom stated. They had waited a few days before knocking at the door and she had unceremoniously slammed it in their face. When one of them sneaked into the backyard and cornered me dad chewed her out so badly that none of them showed up near the house again. He also made sure the school knew about them so no reporters were allowed on the property. That just left them while I ran to school and back to try to interrogate me, but I didn't give them the chance. Even without pushing myself I could leave them in my dust. Once they realized this story was going to take more work than they thought they dropped it. "How could you let such an opportunity pass?" Betty asked, aghast, "Do you realize how much work I have to put into getting Elizabeth to appear on television?" Lizzy rolled her eyes. Ever since she was five years old Betty had her participate in all sort of pageants. She had loved them at first, but now she was doing it just to keep her mom happy. Lizzy had decided to become a scientist Betty didn't care for that idea. She felt there was no future for a woman scientist and gave my mom as an example. Fortunately Lizzy had a better head on her shoulder then her mother and didn't believe her. If Betty bothered asking me I would have told her my mom was a more successful woman than a has been beauty queen like her. The oven beeped and announced the game was over. Everyone went about setting things up and soon we were eating. The rest of the evening was, thankfully, without any discussions of what had happened to me. * * * * * After Randall attacked me in the hall he really started giving me the creeps. It got to the point where I'd even seek out Marvin if I couldn't find another one of my friends. Of course I couldn't always find someone. When he managed to corner me on my own he wouldn't actually hurt me; oh he'd shove in against a locker or a wall, but he wouldn't hit me, he'd just give that same warning. There was a hunger in his eyes when he said that and it freaked me out. A few days after thanksgiving Randall had me cornered again. It was early morning I'd just arrived for my workout and I was putting my bag in a locker when he grabbed my shirt's collar and pulled me back hard. I backpedaled until I tripped on a bench and hit my head on the lockers. "It's just a matter of time now," he said looming over me, "you better prepare yourself." Sometime I wished he'd just get it over with and gave me the beating he so obviously wanted to. "What the hell are you doing here?" Billy said from the doorway. And here I thought my day just couldn't get any worse. "I was just talking with him," Randall said. "Yeah, right," Billy said pulling him away from me, "that's why he's on the floor." I used the opportunity to get up. "I told you before. No one touches the matchstick but me." To make his point Billy punched me in the stomach. "You try to rough him up again and I'm going to pound you to a pulp, you got that?" "Sure Billy, whatever you say," Randall replied. "Good, now come on we got to get going." What do you know, I thought once they'd left, Billy has a special place in his heart for me. The chuckle at my own lame joke didn't last long, it made my stomach hurt. I decided to forget about training and headed directly to the classroom. * * * * * It was the middle of the last period before lunch on that same day when the loudspeaker squawked "May I have your attention please," Principal Pullox's voice came, "Due to . . . unforeseen circumstances classes are ending now for today. Students who normally take busses home are asked to go to the cafeteria, arrangements are being made. Everyone else, please go home to be with your families." We all looked at each other to see if someone knew what was going on, Mister Pullox's tone had been so somber, but it was clear no one did. "All right," Miss Tatia said to get our attention, "you heard what the principal said, classes are over, but that doesn't mean you get to leave here without homework, I want you to read chapter twelve and thirteen, covering the civil war. We'll be discussing it next time." With that most students ran out the class like this was the start of the holiday vacations. "Do you have any idea why we're being sent home?" Maggie asked as I reached my locker, she been was waiting there for me; Marvin, the magical wonder, was with her of course. "No," I answered as I put my books in it, "I don't know any more than you do." I made sure the books I needed for my assignments were in my pack. "How about you? Heard anything from up on high?" I asked Marvin without looking at him. "It doesn't work that way. He only talks to me to tell me what to do. And the less he talks the happier I am." When I turned to leave I had no choice but look at Marvin and I saw some more of the momentary glimmers I'd been noticing on his black trench coat recently. I really wanted to ask him about them, but I had to remind myself I didn't like him. I just tolerated him. "Do you need a ride home?" Marvin asked us as we made our way through the crowd. It didn't look like anyone had listened to principal Pullox, everyone was in the hallways. "No," Maggie answered, "we live just a few miles from here." "Ok, then I'll see you two tomorrow." I was surprised that she refused the offer. I would have expected her to use any excuses to spend more time with her new best friend. I almost asked, but figured it was better if I kept my mouth shut, I might have lost the best friend status, but I didn't want to lose her as a friend completely. The walk home was eerie, everyone was going home and it wasn't even lunch time yet. People were driving like maniac to get there. Some were white as sheets while others were panicked. It didn't tell us anything about what was going on, other than it wasn't just the school that was affected. Dad was home too. The only sound was the television in the living room. "The object," a woman said, "is now passing by Grove Beach, as you can see it has caused the highway to come to a complete stand still as some people are abandoning their cars to either flee or move as close to the water as they can to get a better look." I peeked in the room, my mom and dad were riveted by the image of a crowd of people standing on a beach looking at some sort of disk in the air. "What's going on?" I asked dropping my pack. He didn't say anything, he just pointed to the television. "For those who have just joined us," the announcer said, "Early this morning a saucer shaped object was seen off the coast of Pirate Bay. Words from a fisherman is that it came out of the ocean about 20 miles off the coast. It's been moving south along the coast since then at about thirty miles an hour. "Parahumans have been coming and examining the flying saucer, but none of them have been able to determine the nature of the object." The camera roomed on the disk like object and half a dozen parahumans were flying around it. The only one I recognized was Techno, in his white and silver power suit. The only notable one was someone with a bird like fire around him. The others weren't even in any kind of costume; two guys and two girls. I sat next to mom and she hugged me tightly. I didn't really get why everyone was making such a big deal of it. It was probably going to turn out to be something a parahuman inventor made. Parahumans came and went, the one with the bird like fire aura eventually landed and a reporter asked him for an update. The name Phoenix appeared at the bottom of the screen as he explained that Techno was trying to find a frequency that would let him talk to whoever was inside. He didn't look any older than I was and he was rubbing shoulders with heroes like Techno. I felt a momentary pang of envy but then I reminded myself that I wasn't a hero like they were. One of the woman in civilian clothing said that she was here to try and figure out how the craft flew. She declined to give her name when asked and simply said that she worked for NASA. An hour later the crowd became excited as wall of water became visible in the distance following the shore. The camera zoomed and I could see that the wall of water was the wake from someone flying just over the surface. I could only make out that he or she wore red, but it wasn't long before I saw there was a white maple leaf on the man's chest. "This can't be good," dad said. "Is that?" the reporter said over the image of the man slowing down. The camera zoomed out and we saw Techno flying in his direction. "Yes, it's just been confirmed. It's Maple Leaf, the Leader of the Canadian super team. Ron, do you know what he's doing here? Has the Canadian government made any statement?" I understood my dad's worry. Canadians were nice and friendly, but their army was scary. It had the largest concentration of Parahumans in a military force in the world and while they didn't make a habit of using them, when they did they didn't hold back. There had been that thing with the province of Quebec back in the seventies. They'd tried to split off; there had been bombing and kidnappings. The Canadian army was sent in and the stomped on them so hard the world noticed and it was still part of *our* history books. They never attacked anyone else after that. They promised the world that they would only act as peace keepers, and only go where they were invited. Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan where three countries I remembered who had asked them for help. They were at peace now, but the Canadians had been ruthless in bringing it about. They completely wiped out the opposing forces. The UN tried to restrain them, but it didn't work. The Canadians hadn't committed any kind of war crimes; they had just fought those wars extremely efficiently. With an army like that willing to come in and help a country fight off invaders you'd think there wouldn't be any wars anymore, but it wasn't so. Countries still fought each other and most of the time neither one of them called in help. We were lucky that our war with Iraq was so short; no one had time to call them in. Maple Leaf's uniform was the colors of the Canadian flag; a white maple leaf on his chest and the rest red. He was standing in mid air talking with Techno, by the expression on his face he was more likely shouting. Techno's face was hidden behind his helmet's silver visor so I couldn't tell what he was feeling but he looked relaxed, his jet boots keeping him level with the Canadian parahuman. The camera focused on the reporter. "I've just received word from the studio that Canada is claiming the craft belongs to them. That it's part of an experiment they ran in the eighties and that Maple Leaf is simply there to ensure it is returned unarmed. "Do we have any way to hear what they're saying?" She wasn't talking in her microphone but to the people around her. Someone pointed to an older man sitting on the sand wearing large earphones. He was pointing a parabolic antenna toward the parahumans. "Excuse me, sir" the reporter asked tapping him on the shoulder, "are you able to hear what they are saying?" The man looked at her and blinked before removing one of the earphones. She repeated her question. "Yeah, I can. The guy in red identified himself as Maple Leaf, he said that the saucer's his and he's taking it back to Canada. Techno said it was in US airspace so it was going to remain here until they were done with it. They've been exchanging threats. Oh My. Techno just said that he wasn't getting it without a fight. Maple Leaf said 'gladly'" "The Leaf's strength and invulnerability against Techno's armor," dad said, "it isn't going to be pretty." I nodded. Maple Leaf was suppose to have been the inspiration for the superman character in the comics. The camera turned and caught Maple Leaf just as he threw something behind him. There was a flash of light and five people were standing on a silver disk floating a little higher than the Canadian Parahuman. I didn't recognize any of them, I'd have to ask Maggie later. One of them looked like an Eskimo, with winter gear and everything, one looked like a large bear. There was a thin woman who glowed slightly and one who seemed to be absorbing the light around her. The last one was crouched with his hand spread on the disk. The Parahumans who had been studying the craft flew to join Techno, although two of the civilian ones seemed reluctant to do so. Phoenix's flames burned brighter and larger. The crowd gasped and the camera looked around trying to find what had caused the reaction and eventually zoomed on the craft. There was a small black rectangle on the underside, it hadn't been there the last time the camera had show it to us. As I watched someone jumped out of the rectangle. The camera zoomed close enough I could tell it was woman, she had short dark hair with almost white bangs around her face. She fell of a seconds and then sparks lit up around her. My mom gasped and stood. The sparks became a field of electricity around her and she wasn't falling anymore, she was flying. "It's Electrika," mom said a moment before the reporter, "She's back." Electrika flew next to Techno, and a moment later he and the others left as fast as they could fly, leaving her alone with the Canadian team. Maple Leaf seemed amused. "What are they saying?" the reporter asked off camera. "Dunno," the old man answered, "all I hear now is static." Maple Leaf lost his amusement to rage. Electrika just shrugged and there was a bright flash of light followed by static. "What happened?" dad asked. I had no idea. Had Electrika caused that? I couldn't remember any news story where she did anything like that. The static was replaced by colored bars and 'please standby'. A moment later we were looking at a news room where the news anchor was running toward his desk. "It seems that Lisa is experiencing some technical difficulties. To recap, this morning, around seven pacific time a saucer shaped craft was spotted off the coast of Pirate Cove . . ." I tuned him out and answered the phone. "Did you see?" Maggie almost screamed in my ear, "Electrika's back. I knew she'd get back." "Yeah, I saw." I couldn't quite work up her level of enthusiasm. "Can you believe it, she's back. I hope Claw's back too. Do you think he's in the flying saucer?" "Take a breath Magster." She paused. "don't you find it amazing at all?" "I guess," I said after a moment of hesitation. "You guess? Come on, this is Electrika we're talking about. She's been missing for months now." "Was there ever any doubt she'd be back?" I asked. Maggie was silent. "You said it, she's Electrika, leader of the Justicars. Of course she was going to come back. And of course Claw's with her, probably in the flying saucer." "You could sound a little happier about it." "I know, I'm sorry," I said. I looked in the living room to make sure my parents weren't paying attention to me and lowered my voice. "It's just that after being attacked by parahumans myself the whole thing starts losing some of its appeal. You're having fun playing hero, but I'm just the victim here, over and over." "You don't have to be the victim," Maggie said after a moment, "you can be a hero too." She was right, of course, but. . . "No, I'm not going to fight, ever, I told you before, I don't care what happens, I'm never going to fight. I'm leaving that to you." Mom walked by and I covered the receiver. "What's going on?" I asked her. "Electrika fried all the electronics on the beach when she stunned the Canadian parahumans. The reporter was able to call in the station. Electrika and the flying saucer are heading to Los Angeles, to the Justicars headquarters. They'll be there in a few hours and they'll give a conference. I'm going to make lunch while we wait." "Ok, I'll be there to help you in a minute." "There's no need honey, you keep talking with Margaret." So I did for a while. After that we ate. Around two the flying saucer arrived to LA. And as it flew between the taller buildings I get a better sense of its size. If you took a Boeing 747 and spun it around the middle point you'd have a disk that was pretty much like the one I was watching. The Justicars building was twelve stories tall, just outside the financial district. It looked like nothing more than an office building; no big neon sign, no spotlight on the rooftop, but as the saucer came to a stop a few feet over the roof it seemed to acquire something special I couldn't place. I couldn't help feeling that even after the saucer was gone no one would ever look at the building like it was ordinary. A podium had been setup and hundreds of reporters were seated and standing looking in silent awe as the saucer stopped moving. The underside that was facing the reporters opened up, Electrika, Claw and someone else stepped out. Their companion was tall, almost seven feet tall and very thin, almost gaunt. His bald head was proportional, but looked larger because his features were smaller than usual. A group of people welcomed them with hugs, most, but not all, were parahumans. After that Electrika took to the podium. "Before we start," she said, bending down to the microphone, "I'd like to say that it's very good to be back." "Mirian Bromont, from MSNBC. Where exactly have you been?" "It's more of a when, rather than a where. We don't know how, but while we were sailing on the Pacific we found ourselves in the mid eighteen hundreds." "George Snip, CNN. What did you do while you were there?" "We were taken prisoner by pirates," Electrika said with a chuckle, "we escaped, we lived in the town that used to be where Pirate Cove is now. We investigated ghost stories, which turned out to be an alien, fought it and met Alistair in the process." "Did she say alien?" I asked chocked. "Who's Alistair?" George asked quickly. Electika indicated the tall being who had exited the flying saucer with the. "This is Alistair. It's not his real name, but we never managed to pronounce it so we gave him that one." "Can we talk with him?" an Asian woman asked standing up, "Chen Lee, LA Kanton news." "Do you mind talking with them?" Electrika asked him. He moved to the podium and bent down to the microphone. "Is the space ship yours? And where are you from?" Alistair pointed to the ship, nodded and then indicated he sky. The reporters gasped. "What's going on?" dad asked. "Maybe there's problem with the microphones," mom volunteered. A short man with bleached blond hair stood. "Could you repeat that? seems my studio didn't get it." Alistair nodded and bent down closer to the microphone. The man put a finger on his earpiece. "No, they still can't hear you." Claw moved to the podium. "You're gonna have to 'scuse us. We been working with Alistair for a year, we forgot about that." Claw was around six feet tall. He only wore some tattered pants. He was muscular enough to rival Coach Warner and he was covered twith light brown fur from muzzled head to toe. "What did you forget?" the man asked. "Alistair's race is telepathic. It's the only way they talk. No vocal cords. I'm gonna translate for everyone at home. "The ship's not technically his, it belongs to the exploration guild, of which he's a member." Claw turned to the alien. "You sure 'bout that? You never know, might still be around. "That he was a member of," he said to the reporters, "he doesn't think they're still around anymore. Which I guess means the ships yours now." There were a few chuckles. "As for where he's from, he hasn't been able to figure that out yet, the computer was damaged when it crashed here and his maps were scrap, but he's been able to work out that the trip took 'bout five million years." My jaw dropped. An alien, a real live alien. * * * * * School opened up as usually the day after, but none of the teachers could get anything done. The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was the alien. I wasn't any different. Eddy Maggie, me and even Marvin spent the day trading theories as to where he was from and what he was doing here. Billy even forgot to bully me because of Alistair. The Sunday church service was interesting. The two priests got into an argument over if Alistair was from God or the devil. It might have been funny if the answer hadn't been so obvious. He looked like us, so he had to have been made in God's image. It made me realize just how much of an impact on the Church his arrival had. It hadn't occurred to me to question God because of him. I mean God was everywhere, not just on earth but in the entire universe, so of course it made sense that He had other creations. Ok, if Alistair had had hooves and horns maybe it would have been tougher for me to think that, but the guy pretty much looked human. The Church didn't agree. Within a week there were a dozen groups that splintered off, the most extremist of them declaring that Alistair had to die because he was an affront to God. Didn't we already have enough extremist bigots using God's name to justify their hate? We had a serious discussion about if we were going to Christmas Mass. Dad ended up calling our priest and letting him know in no uncertain terms that if there was any discussions of aliens we would be walking out. Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not some species from far off in the galaxy. We picked up Grandma Doris, my Mom's mom before Mass like we do every year. The congregation that year was smaller than usual. After Mass we headed home to celebrate. It wasn't the party it had been when I was a kid. I was old enough not to need to have gifts anymore, although I was always happy with the pencils Grandma gave me. Just the four of us around the table was special enough. I knew it meant everything to Grandma. We were the only ones spending the holidays with her. Her two other daughters lived out of state and never visited. I hadn't even met them. The reason given every year was that it was too far, but what I'd been able to piece together led me to think that it had to do with a lot of money being lost in the eighties. After the Christmas dinner we went to drive grandma home, only to find a foot of snow on the ground. I couldn't believe it. I had never seen real snow before. Even mom and dad were overcome with wonder. Grandma sat on the porch wrapped in multiple blankets while he had a snow ball fight. The next day she took care of us as we came down with colds. I was the first one to get over it so I helped her. The snow only lasted the day here, but in Dallas it fell for three days, they had six feet of it by the time it was over. The city was completely shutdown, and they had to deal with flash floods when it melted over the next day. My dad's folks were ok. The flood cause some damage to their house, but nothing Grandpa couldn't fix himself. The freak storm sparked a debate about Climate Change. Debate might be the wrong term here, shouting match would be more accurate. Everyone agreed the weather was changing, but no one could agree what was the cause. Scientist pointed their fingers at the carbon emitted by the various industries. Corporations pointed their fingers at weather controlling parahumans. Except for one, parahumans stayed out of the argument. Green Peace hacked the conference's video system to give the Terrorist's opinion on the matter. Science showed Oil using corporation were to blame and since they didn't want to work toward fixing the problem he was going to do it for them. The next day he destroyed an entire oilfield in Iran by petrifying the oil in the wells. * * * * By the middle of January you couldn't really tell anything had happened. The water damage had been repaired, Alistair's ship was parked at the government's parahuman research center in Area fifty-one, the church had put out most of the fires caused by the splinter groups and Billy was bulling me again. Like the previous ones the next attack came out of the blue, I'd almost started to believe they were done and over with. It was the weekend and I was hanging out with Maggie and Marvin. She'd invited him along of course, and he drove us to the old textile factory on the outskirt of town. We were there for two hours chatting about everything and nothing when the guy dropped in front of us. We looked at him mouth opened as he dusted himself off. He'd landed on his feet, cracking the pavement. He was wide shouldered, heavily muscled and chomping a cigar. "I got to go take care of my car," Marvin said, the first of us to find his voice, before running off. "I'll help you," Maggie said as she ran after him. "Nice friends you got there kid," the man said in his gruff voice. It matched the rest of him; ripped jeans, dirty wife beater, unshaven chin and messy black hair. I knew why they had left, I knew that they were going to change and come right back, but I couldn't help feeling abandoned anyway. I pushed that feeling aside and tried to calm myself. All I needed to do was stall him long enough for them to come back. "What are you called?" It sounded like a stupid thing to ask, but that was all I could think of. "Don't have a name yet," he said as he took the cigar out of his mouth, "media hasn't heard of me yet. He spat before putting back in. "But after I'm done with you they're gonna call me the ass raper." I stared at him and he just smiled around his cigar. For once my legs obeyed me; I turned and ran. "That's it, run. 'Just gets my blood going. Don't expect anyone to come to your help this time. I checked the place out and it's just the two of us." Right then I didn't care about help. All I wanted to do was get as far away from him as possible. I wished I'd paid attention while we were walking around because then I might have known how to get out of here. The place wasn't one large building, it was a dozen of smaller ones, although smaller was a relative turn, placed in what felt like random. That created a bunch of maze like path that often became dead ends. It forced me to keep my speed much lower than I'd liked. I was back tracking away from another dead end when he stepped in front of me. I didn't have time to stop so I sped up. I didn't gain that much speed, but I figured it would be enough to shove him aside. Running into him was like running into a wall. I bounced off him and into the brick wall. I then ended up face first on the dirt. "Well that was fun," he said as he pulled me up by the neck and shoved my face against the brick, "just the thing to get me worked up." I saw starts for a moment and then I felt the pain flare up as he scraped my face against the wall. I ignored it. He was pulling my belt off. Please God don't let him rape me, I prayed as I grabbed his arm and tried to get him to let go. Instead he pressed himself against me. "Keep fighting me," he whispered, "you have no idea how much of a turn on that is." He wasn't lying; I could feel how hard he was. I fought harder to get him to let go. "Release him mortal!" boomed behind us. My attacker tensed. "How the fuck did you find us?" I managed to crane my neck just enough to catch a glimpse of the parahuman who had spoken. The media called him the modern day Viking with his winged metal helmet, chainmail shirt, fur lined cape and boots, sword and shield. I was familiar with how he looked, after all Maggie as enlisted me to help Marvin design his costume. "Why the hell do they keep showing up? You their pet or something?" "Unhand him immediately or feel my steel." I winced internally, Marvin had to work on his one liners. My assailant shoved me to the ground. "Don't move. I'm going to take care of the anachronism and be right back." The Viking stood still as the man stomped in his direction. He raised his shield to take the punch and the symbols on it lit up. The man struck it again hard enough that Marvin reeled back even if the magic on the shield was suppose to absorb the impact. Marvin swung his sword over head and the man caught it with one hand. I couldn't understand how he'd done that, I'd seen that sword slice through steel. The man's smirk lasted only until the blue flame erupted from the blade and engulfed his arm. "How do you like the feel of Hearthfire?" Viking said as he watched to other man try to put it out. I winced again. When this was over I was going to tell Marvin not to talk when he was Viking. He sounded way too corny and fake. With a yell the man slammed a fist on Viking's shield and he went down to a knee. "Hey Vicking, scram," the Fist said as he stepped out from between two buildings. The man looked at the new arrival while Viking did what he was told. When the man looked back Viking was several feet away and running. The Fist lobbed two balls at the man's feet. It took me a moment to realize what they were. I covered my ears and looked away just before they exploded. I was going to have to ask Maggie where she'd gotten grenades. The man stood back up. His clothing were in tatters and pieces of shrapnel were imbedded in his skin. He locked eyes on the Fist and ran toward him yelling in rage. When he was close enough the man swung wildly and the Fist dodged. Viking joined in the fight, but he was swatted aside quickly. Seeing Marvin fly back before crashing down shocked me. It finally dawned on me just how dangerous the man was. He'd shrugged off fire and grenades, he'd swatted Marvin without even thinking about it. What was going to happen to Maggie when he finally connected a fist? Thinking about it made it happen. I didn't see the impact, but I heard Maggie's grunt before she flew into the wall. I heard something crack and then she was on the ground, immobile. I looked from her, to Marvin who was trying to get back on his feet, to the man who was smiling with satisfaction and I saw red. I ran at him screaming. He swung at me, but I caught his arm, twisted it hard and punched his shoulder, dislocating it. He was still yelling in pain when I tripped him back and kneeled over him, knees on his shoulders. Then I started punching him in the face, over and over and over again. It felt good to finally hit someone back, to hear bones breaking under my fists. After all the bullying I had taken, after all the times I had held myself back to avoid drawing attention to myself this was one time when someone was going to feel what it was like to be on the receiving end. "Jayson!" My name finally registered and I looked up a Viking. I had the feeling he had been calling it for some time now. He pulled his helmet off and it shimmered, turning into the hood of the shirt he wore under his trench coat. With it off the rest of his costume shimmered back to his normal clothing. "Man, I wish you'd told me you were able to take care of yourself like that." I looked down at where he was indicating and didn't immediately understand what I was looking at. It looked like a rumpled bag in shades of red and pink with a black carpet on top of it. Why did I have a bag between my legs? I looked behind me and for a moment saw only a buck of town clothing before the image readjusted itself into a body. I looked back at the 'bag' and this time I knew it was a face. There were no recognizable features. Where the eyes, cheeks or nose should have been there was only a bloody mess. I jumped off the body and got to all four before throwing up. "Are you ok?" Marvin asked putting a hand on my shoulder. "Don't touch me," I yelled, shoving him back harder than I'd meant to. I ran off, but I couldn't shake the bloody image from my head. I'd killed him. I had killed someone. But worst than that. I had enjoyed it.
  17. Kindar

    Chapter 03

    Part 3: Revelations and Complications The office was large and well furnished. The occupant was obviously wealthy, but his wealth wasn't displayed in gold or silver, it was displayed in age. The desk was over two hundred years old and if the stories were to be believed had been Abraham Lincoln's presidential desk. It was massive and made of mahogany wood; polished to a shine by the care of many previous owners. He had acquired it from the museum where it had been on display for years. The two chairs before the desk had been obtained from Buckingham Palace and were supposed to have been built by Leonardo daVinci. The fabric had been replaced multiple times, but the wood was original. The chairs had been so well built that there wasn't even a crack in them. The settee by the window was from Louis the sixteenth's castle and had to have been liberated from a museum in Paris. The book case taking the entire wall behind the desk was the man's most prized piece in his collection. It had been built in the fifteenth century in a Monastery in Ireland. It had been the most difficult piece to acquire as the monks had been quite reluctant to let go of it. In the end he had had to pay the mercenaries extra because of the trouble the monks had caused them, but it had been worth it. The man was sitting in his only concession to modern time, the presidential chair of Eisenhower. For all his time spent behind his desk he was a well built man. He made sure to go to the gym every day and the gray suit he wore enhanced his form. His black hair was cropped short and it flowed on the side of his square face directly in his beard. "Come in," he said in his deep voice when someone knocked at the door. He was reading a risk to cost assessment on a lumber project in the Amazon. Attached to it was a report on the big cat population in the area. The man who entered was rail thin and much older, with only a crown of gray hair left on his head. "The second attack failed," he reported as he closed the door behind him. "Do we know what happened this time?" He set the report aside and leaned back in his chair. "Sanguine was left tied up, but alive," the man said. He didn't move away from the door. "The Combine liberated him from the police and forwarded us his report. According to it a parahuman intervened and prevented him from terminating the target; some unknown martial artist." "How reliable is Sanguine?" the younger man asked after a moment of silence, "can he have made up the parahuman to cover up his failure?" "That's unlikely, sir. While he's very much at the bottom of the ladder among the Combine's assassins, he has no history of lying with previous failure." "How likely is it for two attacks to be interrupted by two different parahuman?" "Rather unlikely, sir, but still possible." The younger man rubbed his chin for a moment. "How about the people we have studying him, have they reported anything?" "Nothing out of the ordinary; as far as they can tell he's a perfectly normal boy. He's bullied, he's among the better runners the school has and has a small circle of friends, none of whom also seem to be anything special." "Thank you Albert, please remind the Combine that they will not be paid until the boy is dead, and that I will take it very poorly if they decide to renege on the deal. Also, call my wife to confirm she still wants me to pick up the children from school." "Very well, sir." The man waited until his secretary had left before taking an envelope out of the desk. It was yellow, but it wasn't because of age or coloring. His scientists had told him that the paper was made from untreated wood pulp, but they hadn't been able to identify the type of tree it came from. He was surprised that there was a tree left his scientists hadn't catalogued, but the world was large and still kept many secrets from him. From the envelope he took out a Polaroid of a skinny boy. On the back was a name, an address as well as the name of a school. With the picture was a letter written on the same type of paper. The writing was very precise, the mark of someone who had to take great care with his writing. The ink was made from squid ink, but it didn't contain any of the impurities now common in it. "The picture," it read, "is that of a man who will cause you great problems if he is allowed to come of age. You must take every step possible to destroy him regardless of the cost." The letter had arrived over the summer, it had showed up in his personal mail without postage and no one in the mail room could recall seeing it before. Unlike what the letter advised he didn't rush to have to boy killed. He hadn't become a successful businessman by blindly jumping at every warning he was given, but he also wasn't going to ignore something that had seemingly magically appeared in his office. He'd had one of his researchers compile a file on the boy and nothing unusual came up. Still he had contacted the Combine and hired them to remove him, but not at all cost. He wasn't going to put his plans at risk for some unnamed potential ally. "Who are you," he asked the letter, "and what do you have to gain by this boy's death." He folded the letter, put it and the picture back in the envelope. He probably wouldn't find that out, but it didn't matter. With the Combine executing the work the boy would die, it was just a question of time. * * * * * As I'd predicted, after a week of Maggie meeting me after each one of my classes, people started talking. It took me that long to convince her that she didn't have to follow me around in school. No one was going to attack me here, not with a school's worth of witnesses. Of course, by then I had already been branded as the uncaring boyfriend since she was obviously head over heel in love with me and I didn't treat her as anything more than a friend. Those who knew us a little figured it was about time that we got together; we'd been best friend for so long it was the natural next step. Eddy was the only one who knew us well enough to believe us when we said we weren't together. He did question why she was following me everywhere if that was the case. I could tell she wanted to tell him the truth, but instead she told him it was a social experiment. After that she'd meet up with me at my doorstep and then as we left school. She also forced me to get over my aversion of that spot of sidewalk in front of the Pater's house. It was about a week later, we were heading back home. As I started to turn to go to the other side of the road she grabbed my arm and stopped me. We were at the corner of the block. "Okay, this has gone on long enough," she said as she started pulling me along, "you have to deal with this." I dug my feet in and we stopped moving. She was a little shorter than I was but about the same weight so I only had to put a little of my strength in it to keep us where we were. "You can't make me," I stated. "You can't ignore this for your entire life." "I figure that once I've moved out to go to college I won't have to think about it anymore," I replied trying to make light of the situation. She sighed and let go of me. "This isn't healthy. If you don't deal with this it's going to come back to haunt you." "Look, I don't want to deal with this," I said, "not now." Or ever, a voice added in the back of my head. "Well you can't just avoid this like you're trying to avoid fighting. You need to learn to deal with stuff." "What do you want me to do," I said angrily, "just pick a fight with someone and hope I don't break their necks?" "Of course not," she said with a touch of exasperation in her voice. "Obviously fighting isn't something you can just jump in and work on, but this is." She pointed down the length of the sidewalk and I looked in that direction. Like every time before I saw the blood and the body parts. "I can't," I said weakly. "What are you so afraid of? They aren't going to come back." She eyed me for a moment. "Or do you think you should have saved them?" "Of course not," I said forcefully. Don't you? the voice asked, 'thy shall not kill' is one of God's commandment. Shouldn't you have stopped him from killing them? "Then what's the problem?" "I don't know, I just can't." "Let's just try okay? We'll walk together." I looked at her and the earnestness in her eyes made me nod. I looked down at my feet and took a step forward. The second one was shaky. On the third one I happen to look up to see how far I was from the spot and the sight of all that blood froze me. "I can't," I was barely able to say. I wanted to turn and run in the opposite direction, but I couldn't get my body to do anything but stare ahead. "It's okay," Maggie said, "breathe." Only when she said that did I realize I'd been holding my breath. "Close your eyes." I did as she instructed. The inside of my eyelids was blood red. "I want you to imagine that you're jogging on the track at school. You told me once that when you jog you feel like you can leave all your worries behind you so that's what I want you to do now." I did that and the red was replaced by the blacktop of the track. I forced myself to hear the sound of my shoes hitting the ground rhythmically and I felt my breathing calm down. I had to keep my breathing calm when running to maximize the oxygen going to my lungs. "Are you ready?" she asked. I felt her place hand in mine. I nodded as I closed it over hers. "Good, were going to take one step now." There was a flash of red but I focused on the blacktop again. "Another." My breathing sped up. I forced myself to slow it down. I couldn't afford to hyperventilate while running. "Another. "Another. "Another. I froze as a cut up body appeared on the track. The blood pooling around it was vivid red. "Are you okay?" she asked when I didn't move. "Just a minute." There was no body on the track. Coach Timberson was adamant about the track always being clear. There also was no blood. In fact there was nothing red anywhere near the field. The closest to that was the brown brick the school was made out of. The body and blood disappeared from the track and I started jogging again. I took a step, and then another and another. When Maggie had me stop and open my eyes we were on the other corner. I was panting and shaking. I felt as if I had been running around the track instead of imagining it, but I had made it across. "How about we don't do this ever again?" I asked fighting the impulse to look behind me. "How about we do it again tomorrow instead?" Maggie replied with a smile. It took me over a month to be able to walk this block with my eyes open, but it wasn't until after Halloween that I was able to do it without Maggie holding my hand. During that time the Terrorist destroyed an oil refinery in Fort Worth. It made the news because it was the first time he destroyed something in Texas. In the last five years he had destroyed over thirty factories over the world, all of them big polluters. Each time he gave a warning a week ahead of time that he was going to do it. That if the plant was completely shut down by then it would be spared. No one ever did it, even after all this time. Three of the Dallas/Fort Worth parahumans; Smack Down, Whiplash and Reverb, tried to stop him, but by the time the fight was over they were left unconscious and the refinery had been turned to dust. There hadn't been any casualties. He always gave everyone inside his targets time to leave, sometime going as far as throwing them out himself. How he destroyed his targets was something of a mystery. There weren't any explosions or radiations afterward, only a large pile of dust. Some scientists claimed that he had found a way to break the bound between atoms, but even they didn't know exactly how he did that. Some argues that he was obviously a scientific genius; his power armor was ample proof of that, so it had to be a device, while others thought the suit was just to confuse them and it was a parahuman ability that allowed him to do it. Green Peace released another of the Terrorist's message after the destruction stating that until mankind started taking steps by itself to stop polluting the environment he was going to continue protecting it his way. The mayor of New York City went on TV claiming that he was the perfect example of why parahumans needed to be registered. The President also went on TV to say that the United States wouldn't give into terrorism. That if the Terrorist really wanted to protect the environment he should turn himself in and use his obvious intellect to help them come up with a less disruptive solution. Personally I thought the guy had to be plain nuts. * * * * * "What are you guys dressing up as for the Halloween party?" Eddy asked. It was free period and we were sitting in the cafeteria just wasting time. "I haven't decided yet," I said with a shrug, "a ghost maybe." "That's creative," Maggie said, "Maybe you should go as Claw. He's big, strong and can really lay the smack down on the bad guys. You know, what you don't do." The look I gave her told Eddy there was some subtext he was missing, but he didn't comment. "What about you Maggie?" he asked instead. "I'm going as Madam Curie." We both stared at her. "What?" "How come you aren't dressing up as a parahuman again this year?" "Not everything I do has to revolve around parahumans you know," she answered with a distinct lack of conviction. I reached in her bag and pulled out a random note book. On it were half a dozen stickers of Justicar Members. Electrika, Claw, Black Jack, Goliath, Plasma and Phoenix. With a smirk she took the book out of my hand and shoved it back in her bag. "You should dress up as Electrika," I said, "it maybe Reverb." "How about Whip?" Eddy offered. Maggie guffawed. "No way, even if I dared wearing as little as she does I don't have the figure to pull it off." Whip was the most popular parahuman out of Atlanta. All she wore were leather high heel shoes, leather panties, leather bra and a leather mask. I wasn't surprise Eddy had suggested her. She was the subject of a lot of teenager's fantasies. "What are you going as?" she asked him. "I'm going as a Na'vi." "Well you certainly have the height and thinness for it," I commented. "Are they even going to let you in wearing that little?" Maggie asked. "Good luck getting a date being that much of a geek." I said. "I already have a date. Eliza is going with me, also as a Na'vi." "Eliza Munroe?" Maggie asked and Eddy nodded. We both looked at him. Eliza was among the best looking girls in our year, I mean even *I* had noticed how much of a looker she's become. "Err, are you sure she isn't pulling a prank on you?" I asked. "I am, we been going out for a few months now." Now I outright stared at him. "How come this is the first we've heard of it?" Maggie asked. "Because my private life is private," Eddie stated. We were both surprised at that comment. Eddie used to be someone who shared everything about his life with us, even stuff we'd rather not know about at times. "And we won't be the only Na'vi there. There's going to be about a dozen of us. Even Chris Landon is doing it." "Chris Landon?" I asked, "Small and pudgy Chris?" Eddy nodded and I opened my mouth to say something, but I closed it just as fast before I said something even I would think was stupid. "I will not judge, I will not judge," I repeated softly to myself instead. "How about we change the subject," Eddie said, "have you decided what to write about for the history essay?" "Yeah," I said, "I'm going to write about how the Church mishandled things during the Second World War." "Aren't you Catholic?" Eddie asked. "Yeah, so?" "That doesn't sound like a very Catholic thing to do, speaking against the Church like that." "We're not blind followers," I said with a shrug, "anyone who bothers reading history books can see that the Church made mistakes at times. What are you going to write about?" "The destruction of the Twin Towers." "Does nineteen-ninety-eight really qualifies has being history?" I asked. "It might not have been that long ago, but there never was destruction on that scale due to parahumans fighting before. That's what launched mayor Guiliani on his quest to get parahumans registered." "There isn't any proof that parahumans were responsible for that," Maggie stated. "What else could it have been, and how about the record the news crew made? The explosions, light and other weird stuff that was visible." "That could have been special effects," Maggie replied, "Tell me this, if it was a fight between two groups of parahumans that brought the Twin Towers down, how come not even one of them has ever been identified?" "That's Guiliani's point," Eddie countered, "If they had been registered he would have known they were in New York and it he would have been able to prevent it from happening." I don't think either one of them noticed when I left the table. I didn't want to be caught in the middle of that argument. Eddie was very much a proof and scientific method kind of guy, and Maggie couldn't tolerate having parahumans painted as bad people as a group. So I sought the quiet of a table on the other side of the cafeteria. I took out my sketchbook and flipped through it until I came to the drawing I'd done of the Fist. I'd drawn my first savior so it seemed appropriate I draw my second one. Since saving me the Fist had made it on the news shows twice. The first time because he saved a woman from a robber, the image was grainy, from a security building on an adjacent building. The woman had been interviewed and described the Fist as being quick, efficient and polite. A few days later the robber was on the same news show going on and on about how the Fist had broken his arm and leg. In that report the robber was treated as an innocent victim of a ruthless parahuman attack. That report got at least twice the airtime of the previous one. Maggie had been pissed about it, but I reminded her that this was Tyberon, reports like that were about the best she could expect. It took her a few days to calm down and put it out of her mind. I flipped to the drawing of my first savior. I still looked at it once in a while to see if I would remember anything else to add. Nothing had come in a few weeks but I still did it. "That's pretty good," someone said behind me. "Thanks," I said as I looked over my shoulder at Coach Warner holding a tray. "Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked pointing to the seat in front of me. "No Coach." I wasn't going to complain about having him sit in front of me, I didn't often get to look at a well built guy without looking suspicious doing it. "Please, call me Thor," he said as he sat down. He put his tray down on the table. "Can I see it?" he asked as he pushed the tray aside. I handed him my sketchbook, "I'm not really used to calling one of my teacher by anything but their last name." "That's ok, you'll get used to it." He flipped through a few of the other pages but came back to the top one. "You're quite good. That's a very accurate drawing of him." "Thanks," I said blushing slightly. It wasn't often that an adult other than my parents or art teacher complimented me on my drawings. "Wait a minute. You said it's accurate. You've seen him before?" "Yeah," he said with a small chuckle, "I used to hang out with him a long time ago." I looked at him for a moment. It was strange hearing someone who couldn't be more than thirty talk about 'a long time ago.' He must have known him when they were kids. "Can you tell me his name?" "Sure, it's Kindar." "Do you know why he saved me?" "At a guess I'm going to have to say that someone paid him to do it. He's never been keen on the whole hero thing. He didn't mind saving people, but usually there had to be some coins attached to it." His eyes became distant for a moment. And then he was silent. It gave me the time to work up the courage to ask my next question. "Do you know why he killed them?" I asked softly. "He probably thought it was the best way to protect you," he answered as he gave me back my sketchbook. "Did he happen to say if he'd be looking after you for a while?" he asked with a tone of hope. I shook my head. "He said he wasn't coming back." "I guess I shouldn't be surprised," he said with a sad smile. "It's been a while since you saw him?" I asked. "Feels like many lifetimes ago." "I'm sure you'll get to see him again." "I know I will," he replied with a smile, "so long as certain people keep their promises. I saw you met the new parahuman." He pointed at my sketchbook. "Yeah, he stopped someone else from killing me," I said. Coach Warner, I just couldn't get myself to call him Thor, or even Eric, raised an eyebrow. "He said, Kindar I mean, that others would try to kill me." I wasn't sure why I told him that, other than we both knew him I guess. "What are you going to do?" he asked after studying me for a moment. "I don't really know." "Well, if you need any help you know where to find me." I looked at him as he started on his lunch; the cafeteria meatloaf, a coffee and slice of apple pie. He didn't react the way I expected an adult to react. He didn't tell me what do to, who to call and all that. It felt strange having an adult let me do what I thought was best in this situation. I was tempted to ask him about it, but the bell rang. * * * * * "The Magster wants to see you in the science lab," Eddy told me when he walked by me on his way home. I was standing by the school doors waiting for Maggie to arrive. "Why?" "She didn't say, but I'm guessing it's got to do with lifting some heavy equipment." That explained why I was still waiting for her. Normally she would be the one waiting for me. I went back inside the school. It had been a long time since I'd been in the school after hours. I'd forgotten how quiet it got; just going up one flight of stairs and the noise of the few people still leaving completely vanished. I slowed down my running to enjoy it. I never heard him coming. One moment I was listening to the silence, the next my face was being grinded against a locker. My mind went black with fear. One of them was in my school. "You think you can hide it," he whispered in my ear, "but I know what you are. Soon there's going to be a reckoning." He pushed my face against the locker again before letting me go. I spun around, this time I was going to defend myself, and watched Randall Mitchell walk away. I sighed with relief and leaned back into the locker. Randall wasn't out to kill me, he was just one of Billy's cronies. What he said confused me, what did he know, and how had he found out? Did it mean Billy knew too? And why had Randall harassed me on his own, Billy usually didn't let anyone else bully me. I looked around while I caught my breath and noticed that I was alone. With Randall gone there was no witness if someone decided to attack me. I ran all the way to the science lab. I heard Maggie exerting herself in the back of the room. "What are you doing?" I asked. She was bent over a slab of metal. "Good, you're here. Put that in there." She indicated one of the two square buckets against the wall. "Sure." The slab looked to be about a foot by a foot and a half and a few inches thick. It had been cast with handholds on each side. I grabbed one and lifted it, and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket instead. "Fuck, what is this thing made out of?" "Tungsten," she answered as she went to the storage room. "How much does it weigh?" I bent down and grabbed both sides this time. "About four hundred pounds." I believed her. I carefully put it in the bucket. It looked to be homemade. "What are you doing with it?" "I want to see how strong you are." She came out of the closet pushing a cart with more slabs on it as well as a disassembled bench press. "You're kidding, right?" "Nope, completely serious. You're afraid of your own strength. First step to overcoming fear is getting to know it. So we're going to figure out how strong you are and go from there." "Look, I'm not afraid of my strength, I just don't want to fight." "Fine," she said rolling her eyes, "then just think of it as indulging my curiosity. You're the only Parahuman I know. I want to see what you can do." "Okay, but you try to get me to fight and this friendship is over." "Sure," she didn't believe the threat any more than I did. "Now help me assemble this and we can get started." Once it was assembled she put the bar on the top notch. "I don't think so," I told her, placing it on the lowest one. "But I need to know how much you can support." "Doing it that way the moment there's more weight than I can lift the bar falls, breaks my neck and your parahuman best friend is dead." "Oh." "Yeah, oh," I echoed, "this way if I can't lift it, then I just can't lift it and you'll know. Also we're going to put something under those bucket so there's no weight on the bar when it's resting." We built a stand for them out of the notebooks and I put the buckets on them before adding a slab in the empty one. "Are you sure the buckets are going to hold up? There's going to be a lot of weight in them." "Yeah, I had them made by a guy I know who has shop classes." "I hope you're right," I said as I lied down on the bench and grabbed the bar. "Okay, we're starting with four hundred pounds on each side." She hooked the bucket and moved away. I easily lifted the bar a dozen times before putting it back. "That easy?" she asked. "Pretty much." I put another slab in each bucket. "We now have eight hundred pounds in each." Again I did twelve reps, but this time I felt the last three. I added one slab each. "twelve hundred pounds," Maggie said with trepidation. I didn't feel her excitement; in fact I was a little worried. I wished we had smaller weights. I lied down and gripped the bar. I focused my breathing for a moment and then forced it up. And I do mean forced. It took every ounce of strength I had to lift it. I lowered it and went for a second one. I was halfway there when I knew I shouldn't have tried it. Before I could lower it my arms gave out. The buckets slammed on the books and sighed in relief. It didn't last long. The stack of books on my left leaned out, I hadn't worried about it because it seemed solid enough, but now with the weight bouncing off it it moved a little more and then fell apart. I only had time to move the bar over my chest before I felt the full weight. At least I'd saved myself from a broken neck, but I had trouble breathing. Maggie ran off and I heard her break open a cabinet. I grabbed the bar and tried to lift but I couldn't get any leverage. I could barely take some of the weight off my chest so I could breathe. I swung an arm and hit the buckets, but it didn't move. Maggie came back with a large jar and a Bunsen burner. She emptied the jar around the inside of the bucket and then lit the content with the burner. The stuff burned so bright I had to look away for a moment. When I looked again there was a glowing line through the metal around the bucket; then the metal stretched and ripped. As soon as the bottom half fell off I threw the bar off me. To the sound of the slates tumbling out of the bucket I sat and held my chest. "How painful is it?" Maggie asked. "Pretty painful," I answered weakly; breathing was difficult. "Take off your T-shirt, I want to see how bad it is." I tried not to make faces as I took it off, but moving my arms caused the pain to flare up. "That looks pretty bad," she commented. "I know," was all I could say. The line made by the bar was red and the skin had broken in places. The Magster took out her camera. "Do you mind if I take pictures, I want to document how fast you heal." I tried to sigh, but the pain wouldn't let me. "Go ahead." She took her pictures and then we cleaned up. She poured sand on the fire that was still burning and melting more metal. I have no idea why there was sand in the science lab. She didn't want me to help, but I was the only one who could pick up the slates, although I had to be careful doing it. When everything was back in the storage closet the only evidence left were the vicious burn marks on the floor around where the bucket had landed. Maggie was going to have to do some creative thinking to explain that. * * * * * Maggie had to spend the next two weeks helping out her science teacher clean up the lab after school to pay off the damage to the floor and the material we'd used. She didn't mention my involvement, she told him that she had been testing the reactivity of burning magnesium to tungsten, whatever that meant, and that it had gone out of control. I offered to help out, but she wouldn't let me. I still waited for her. Partially to keep her company but mainly because Randall's attack had reminded me I was in danger and I didn't want to take a chance by walking home alone. On the up side, my reputation as a boyfriend got better for it. Mom approved of my making sure Maggie didn't walk home alone. She said it made me a gentlemen. Dad thought it was sweet how I paid attention to her now that she was becoming a woman. I just rolled my eyes; dad had started hinting that I should find a special lady friend since the school year had started. I'd told him I wasn't interested in getting a girlfriend, but I don't think he really heard me. It was Friday when I was attacked again. It was suppose to be Maggie's last day of punishment, but her teacher let her go instead because she'd been so good about doing her sentence. To celebrate we were heading to the mall for a few hours before our Karate class. We were walking through the park when I saw the man come toward us. He was of average height and build he wore jeans and a white t-shirt. There was nothing out of the ordinary about him, but my body froze anyway. "What's wrong?" Maggie asked. She'd taken a few more steps before realizing I'd stopped. I didn't answer, I was too busy looking around for people. If I could find someone who could act as a witness I could convince myself I was panicking for nothing, but there was no one. We were in one of the small clearings that dotted the park and normally there would be people picnicking or just lounging, so where were they? When I looked at the man again he's covered half the distance separating us. He was looking straight at me with determination. I forced my body to take a step back. Maggie looked at the man coming toward us. "Oh shit," she said. I wanted to echo her, but I couldn't get my mouth to work. She looked around quickly. "I'm, I'm going to go get help," she said before running into the woods. I knew what she was going to really do, but I couldn't help feeling like she was abandoning me. "The pretty girl is smart to run," the man said. "Sharp doesn't like hurting pretty girls." He was now within striking distance. I told my hands to close into fist and hit him, but they wouldn't obey. He swung at me and at the last moment I was able to move out of the way. I dodged the next swing and took a few steps back. I closed my hands into fists and felt relief wash over me. I'd be able to fight back this time. Maggie was right. I couldn't spend my life being afraid. I'd take it easy with him at first and hit harder as needed. The pain of his fist hitting my jaw broke my chain of thoughts. Next there was a fist to my stomach and another to the jaw. Then I was on the ground. "Sharp waits for you to get up," he said. "Sharp is patient." Sharp didn't sound like he was the sharpest tool in the shed. "Hey," someone yelled, "get away from him." The Fist had arrived, I thought, but then realized the voice had been wrong. I looked up to some someone in black holding a sword running toward us. "You don't move," Sharp told me, "Sharp fights the black man and comes back to you." Sharp turned and walked toward the new guy. "Get out of here while I keep him busy," the man in the black said just before swinging at Sharp. I wanted to obey him, but again my body wouldn't obey me. He looked vaguely familiar with his black trench coat. What was it with trench coat, did everyone who saved me had to wear one? Even his shoes were black. "You have a sharp thing," Sharp said, "Sharp has sharp things too." His fingers elongated until they were thin, two foot long, skin colored blades. He used them to block the next swing and then swung at the swordsman. The man brought it up to block and the finger blades sliced through it. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," the man said as he looked at the three inches of blade still attached to the hilt. "I just finished making it today!" "Then you shouldn't have attacked Sharp," he said before swinging back and forth at his opponent. The man in black could only back up each time. Maggie came out running of the woods wearing her mask and trench coat. When she was just a few feet behind Sharp she jumped and kicked him. The man in black moved aside as Sharp toppled to the ground. "Get up Sharp," she said in her deepened 'Fist' voice, "I want to show you what happens to parahumans who come to my city causing trouble." "How do you know Sharp's name?" he asked as he stood. "You're joking, right?" Fist answered, "You're saying it every time you open your mouth." Sharp looked at Fist doubtfully before rushing. Fist easily moved out of the way of the swings and threw in a few strikes in the process. Sharp swung wildly to force Fist to move away. I could see the anger in Sharp's eyes now, and so could Fist. He reached inside his trench coat, and when Sharp rushed him again he threw what he was holding at him. Sharp stopped as the cloud of fine dust spread around his face. I closed my eyes as Fist brought the lighter out and even through my eyelids I saw the flash of light as the magnesium dust ignited. When I opened them The Fist was putting his foot back on the ground after kicking Sharp in the face. Sharp spun and stumbled around trying to keep his footing. The flash had pretty much blinded him, I'd been there the first time Maggie had experimented with the magnesium dust; I hadn't seen anything for a good two minutes, so he didn't see the man in black flip his hilt and hit him across the jaw with the pommel, hard enough that the hilt went flying out of his hand afterward. Sharp dropped like a rock. It was over. I couldn't believe I had been attacked again. It had been so long I'd begun thinking I was safe now. And I couldn't believe that someone else had been drawn into this. This hadn't been just a thug sent to hurt me; this had been a real parahuman. Maggie could have been really hurt, or worse. "What the fuck is wrong with you," I yelled at them, "you could have gotten killed!" "You have to excuse him," The Fist said as he handcuffed Sharp, "He gets like that when he's scared. He still doesn't get that this is what us heroes do." "Oh no," the guy in black said backing away, "I'm no hero, this was just a one time . . ." he froze in mid step. Maggie took off her mask as we exchanged a look. The unexpectedness of it chased my anger away. She stepped to him and waved her hand before his eyes. "Marvin, you okay?" she asked. Marvin didn't reply or even move. I couldn't even tell if he was breathing. "You know him?" "Yeah, he made the buckets we used to test your strength." He was in shop class. That's why he seemed familiar, I'd seen him at school. "You okay?" she asked me. "I'm fine, I'm more worried about what could have happened to you. This guy was an actual parahuman, not just a hitman in costume." "It was bound to happen eventually. Even if whoever wants you dead didn't escalate I'm considered a parahuman crime fighter. Someone was going to take a shot at me eventually. That's why I've been working on those gadgets to help me. All I need now is some form of protection and I'll be good." "No! You one eyed son of a bitch! That wasn't part of the deal!" Marvin said fist shaking at the sky. "All I was supposed to do was make a sword. You were supposed to leave me alone after that. I don't fucking care what the fringe benefits are going to be, I am NOT playing your game." Maggie waited a moment after Marvin was quiet. "Marvin, what's going on?" "It's Odin," Marvin replied with a groan still looking at the sky. "The bastard won't leave me alone." He paused and looked at Maggie. "Hey Maggie, when did you get here?" "I've, err, been here for a while." Marvin looked at her, his eyes going to the mask she was holding. "You're kidding. You're the Fist?" "Yeah, I am," she said, "you don't seem too surprised." "It's tough to be surprised anymore when you have an ancestral God meddling in your life. And it explains the experiment you had me helping with. Who's your friend?" "Marvin, this is Jay, Jay this is Marvin." "Pleasure to meet you," I said as I shook his hand, "not that I'm complaining, but what are you doing here?" "Odin told me to come here." "You mean here, here?" I asked. "Wait. Are you talking about the Norse God Odin?" "Yes, and yes." He took out a GPS unit. "The coordinates he gave me are just behind the tree line." I kept my mouth shut, the guy was obviously deranged. "Did he tell you to come here to help me?" Maggie asked him. "No, I was here to bless my sword." He looked at the pieces on the ground. "Aww man, now he's going to tell me to make another one." He reached for the hilt and as soon as he touched it, it started glowing. The other pieces glowed as well and then slid on the ground until they were all together. The glow intensified and then disappeared where the pieces touched. When the glow dissipated the sword was in one piece. "Okay," Marvin said with awe, "that is cool." He picked it up and swung it a few times. "How did you do that?" Maggie asked. I would have asked the same thing, but I was too stunned at finding out there was another parahuman in my school. "I don't know," Marvin answered. He was still looking at the sword in awe. "I take it that's one of the fringe benefits to whatever Odin wants you to do." "I guess so." "What does he want you to do?" "He wants me to become a hero." "Cool," Maggie said, "you wanna join my team?"
  18. Kindar

    Chapter 02

    Part 2: The unwanted Bodyguard The clearing was a hundred feet across and lined with trees so wide that thirty men holding hand couldn't wrap around them. Each one had scars to mark the years, decades and centuries they had lived through. They were tall, proud and old; older than any now alive except the being standing in the middle of them. He, for there was no denying that he was male, stood over ten feet tall. He was human in general shape, except that his head had a wide muzzle and triangular ears on top. His arms and legs were thick with muscles that bulged with every movement he made. His entire body was covered with short onyx fur and a thin tail with a tuff of slightly longer fur at the end danced behind him. To anyone who didn't know this being, and there were only a handful left who did know him, the movements he was going through would look like a dance, the fluidity of the motions, the gracefulness of the acrobatics he went through. But they belied the power behind them. When he stuck one of the trees with a closed fist the bark and several inches beneath it exploded due to the force of the impact. If he struck it with an open hand the vicious claws at the end of his fingers would rip out bark and wood out as if it was soft cotton. The being stopped and bared his teeth as he sniffed the air. They were sharp and many of them, more than should fit in a normal mouth. He turned swiftly and roared at the man standing at the edge of the clearing. "He was attacked my Lord," the man said without reacting. He was dressed in a simple robe made from the woven fiber of a local plant, it was very pale green and had a pleasant scent to it. The language the man was speaking wouldn't have been recognized by anyone alive today, or by anyone who had lived in the last four thousand years. It wasn't a language that had ever become commonly used among humans even when more of them might have heard it spoken. Now only a hand full of being still spoke it, and none of them humans. "How did it happen," the large being roared as he slammed a fist in a tree hard enough to make it shake all the way to the top. "No one was supposed to know where he was." "I do not know my Lord. The message simply stated that he had been attacked, but that he was all right." "Good, I have no desire to go through what was required to bring him about a second time. The man who brought you the message, what of him?" "He would not stay, even when I ordered him to. He left through the same portal he arrived in." "Take care with what you say rat," The being said piercing the man with his gaze, "you have no authority over any who are linked to me." "Of, of course my Lord," the man whimpered, "I merely thought that you would want to talk to him." "Yes, you do like to try to do my thinking for me," the being said with a snort before turning and therefore not seeing the hateful looked thrown at him. "It matters not. He would not have stayed even if I had been the one to order so. Considering what I represent to him it was a wonder I was able to make him honor his debt to me." "There will be other attacks on him now that they have found him, my Lord" "I know," the being said studying the damage he'd done to a tree rather than to look at the man. "How can my Lord be so calm about this? Didn't he send the child to the Americas for his protection?" The being's laugh was loud and powerful. "Protection? There is only one place where I could keep him safe, and that is within me. I sent him there so he could learn the way of these new humans. If those who are mine are to survive they will need him." "Surely my Lord is mistaken. You are the most powerful being I have ever known. Those humans are nothing compared to you." The being turned and studied the man carefully. "Even the mother to us all has given up trying to contain them. Within the next hundred of those human's years there will be nothing left of my domain. I may rage against them all I desire, but I will not be able to stop them. They will eventually defeat me, even without your help." The man gasped. "What is my Lord suggesting? I would never?" "Would you not?" the being replied with a sad smile. "Never, I am your loyal servant." "You only serve me because you have not found a way to steal my power. Keep to your schemes, in the end they and you are irrelevant. Now leave me, I have to make arrangements." The man left as instructed, but he was fuming. "Irrelevant?" he grumbled to himself, "I'll show that oaf who is irrelevant." * * * * * The day after the attack I didn't get out of bed. Mom and dad tried to convince me to at least get up, but I wouldn't move. My bed was the only place I felt safe, the only place where no one could get to me. Mom brought me breakfast, which I didn't touch. It was all I could do to look at it and not throw up. My body felt exhausted, but my mind was in over speed. The questions came back as soon as I woke up. When I closed my eyes and tried to chase them away my mind threw me the memory of those two dead men. The man who had saved me had dispatched them efficiently. He had been calm and precise in his strikes. Each time he swung his sword a body part fell. With a groan I pushed the memory away and questions fell in the empty space. What was I going to do when I was attacked again? Would I freeze again? Maybe I could run away this time. At noon she asked me if I wanted to eat something and I just shook my head. My stomach was growling in protest, but I couldn't imagine eating anything. Exhaustion took me again at some point and I woke up to the phone ringing; my dad answered it. I looked at the clock, almost six. I caught the smell of steak, carrot and potatoes and my stomach growled at me. This time it wasn't going to be ignored. Still wearing my PJs I slowly made my way down the stairs. My hands were shaking and I could feel my legs wobbling under me. I felt like I had after running as fast as I could for half an hour. I'd gone to Mam Johansson's field just outside of town to test just how fast I could go. I'd barely been able to make it back home. "Jay," my dad exclaimed as hung up the phone, "I'm happy you decided to get out of bed." Mom looked up from the pot she was stirring. "If I didn't make it down now, my stomach was going to come by itself." I tried to give them a smile, but it didn't come out quite convincingly. Dad pulled out my chair and waited for me. "That was Kenneth on the phone. He wanted to know how you were doing." "How did he know?" I asked as I sat. "Margaret called him." That made sense. Before his dad had been transferred to Houston, me, Maggie and Kenneth had been an inseparable trio. Maggie was the brains of our group, Kenneth was the rogue and I was . . . I have no idea what I was. "She called after school," my mom said as she brought me a bowl of stew, "she wants to come over tonight to see you." I shook my head. "I'll see her at school tomorrow." "Oh, I'm so proud of you," mom said as she hugged me. "Now be careful, don't eat too fast. You don't want to make yourself sick." "I'm proud of you too," my dad said. He reached over and squeezed my shoulder. "It takes courage to go back out after what happened to you." "I don't know about that. I just don't want to fall behind this early in the year." We said Grace and I started on my first bowl. The stew was wonderful; I had to force myself to eat slowly when all I wanted to do was wolf it down. The second one went down just as easily. I would have had a third, but mom wouldn't let me. She was afraid I'd make myself sick if I ate too much. I slept very well that night. * * * * * The next morning I was running down the stairs and eating a hearty breakfast like nothing had happened. I had decided that it was in the past. I was done with it. I wasn't a baby anymore; if I was going to be a man I couldn't let something like that continue to affect me. That's what I told myself, and I think I even managed to believe it a little. I kissed mom on the cheek and waved to my dad before running out the door. My speed didn't falter until I got close to the Patter's house. I slowed and then I stopped. I was standing in front of where I had been beaten. I don't know how long I stood there watching the spot. Someone had cleaned the sidewalk, my eyes couldn't see any of the stains, but my memory showed me where they all were. I could see where each limbs had been, where the pools of blood were. Eventually my stomach turned and I had to look away. I crossed to the other side of the road before continuing to school. When I got there it was too late for me to go to the gym so I dropped my bag in my locker and went to the cafeteria. The place was a hub of activities with at least half the school in it. I couldn't see the Magster, but finding her was easy. All I had to do was look for Eddy, tall and lanky Edward. Eddy was a nerd, plain and simply. Like me he was skinny, but he was taller, over six feet tall, and he had the glasses. He always wore a button up shirt and pleated pants. Throw a lab coat on him and pocket protector and you'd have a stereotypical scientist. His shaggy blond hair was my beacon and a few seconds later I was sitting next to them. "Jay, you're back," Maggie exclaimed, "how are you feeling?" "What are you doing here?" Eddy added, "shouldn't you be at the gym?" "I didn't feel like going this morning," I lied to him and ignored the look he exchanged with Maggie. "I'm good," I told her, "what did I miss yesterday?" "Are you sure?" She asked instead of answering me. "Yeah yeah, I'm perfectly fine." "I mean after what happened to you I'd be a wreck." "I said I'm fine!" They jumped in surprise. I didn't mean to be that harsh. "Sorry, but I really am fine." The look she gave me said she didn't believe me, but Eddy prevented her from saying anything by handing me a stack of paper. "Here, those are my notes from chemistry, you can transcribe them. The Magster here got the notes from history and grabbed yesterday's assignments from your math teacher." She wasn't happy at having been interrupted but she pulled out a sheet. "I was going to bring it to you last night, but things got crazy at home." I looked it over; it was the chapters I needed to read as well as the exercise I needed to hand in at the start of tomorrow's class. The bell rang as I finished reading it and we went to our separate classed. The day was eerie. As it progressed more and more people asked me how I was doing. At first it was mainly people I knew, but by the end of my second class strangers were asking me. Principal Pullox sought me just before lunch to ask me that same questions. The only point of normality in the day was Billy and his cronies. They ran into me in the afternoon. I knew they were coming even if they were behind me, I could smell Billy's horrible aftershave. I never understood why he put on so much of it. The shove came and I flew forward in the lockers. The only thing I did was raise my arms in front of my face to protect it. "I guess you think you're special now," Billy growled. "Can't say that I had," I mumbled to myself as I turned. He grabbed me by my shirt and pushed me back against the lockers. Everyone was giving us a wide berth, but hardly anyone stopped to see what was going on. Billy bullying me was just part of the regular day at this school. "What did you say?" He said pushing his face against mine. The guy needed to use some mouthwash pretty bad. "I said that I don't," I replied looking down. "You got that right Mortimer," he said as he let me go, "You're not special, you're not anything. You're just scum for me to pick on. So don't let the way these idiots treat you go to your head. I'm going to continue beating you up and making your life miserable is that understood? Hell if you could afford to have money for lunch I'd steal that too." He turned and walked away. Well at least he hadn't punched me this time. His newest follower kept watching me for a few moments longer. I didn't like the look he was giving me, it was speculative. He was wondering if Billy would let him get away with what he was thinking of doing to me. He then turned and caught up to his leader and I breathed a sigh of relief. * * * * * "Are you sure you're ok?" Maggie asked me. We were walking home and it was the first time she did since the morning so I controlled my desire to snap at her. Every time we'd run into each other during the day I could tell she could barely stop herself. "Yes, I'm fine. I really wish everyone would stop asking." "We're just worried about you, that's all." "I know, but it gets tiresome when the same person asks me over and over, like she didn't believe the answer I gave her." "Fair enough," she said with a small smile. "Esteban said that you didn't fight back, you just let them beat you up." I wasn't surprise Esteban had said that. He was the son of one of the cops at the stations so he'd have heard about it and he was a really bad gossip. "What did you expect me to do?" I said flatly as I crossed to the other side of the street before reaching the Patter's house. "It was two adults who surprised me and one of them had a gun." I saw the look she gave me as she followed me across the road. "Sensei Ilsy has taught us ways to react to surprise attacks." "It's not the same. In class and even in competitions it's all controlled out here it isn't. I just, I just froze." I looked away. I wished it had been the other reason why I hadn't dared fight back, but I hadn't lied, when the attack at started, my mind had gone completely blank. "Then we need to ask Sensei to give you more training so you won't freeze up next time." "No! Look I appreciate that you're just looking out for me, but I'm not learning Karate to kick other people's b. . . . to beat someone up, ok." "You can't depend on a passing Hero to come and rescue you. This wasn't Billy just pushing you around. You could have gotten seriously hurt. You need to learn how to defend yourself "It's done and over with ok, just leave it alone. I'll deal with the next attack when it happens." I almost stumbled when I realized what I'd let slip. "What do you mean 'next attack'?" "Just leave it alone please." "Like Hell I will," she said getting in front of me and forcing me to stop, "Now tell me exactly what you mean by 'the next attack'." I stopped in my track. She knew I'd be utterly shocked by her use of the 'h' word. I tried to out stare her, but I lost. "The guy who saved me said there was going to be other attacks like that one," I said softly in one breath. "This is insane, why?" She looked around quickly. "I don't know. He didn't tell me that." "Then do you have a death wish or something? You know you're going to be attacked again but you don't want to make sure you can defend yourself?" "Of course I want to, but I'm going to do it on my own." I looked her in the eyes. "I mean it Maggie I don't want you to tell anyone about this, not our teachers, not your dad, or my folks, is that understood?" Maggie hesitated before nodding. "Promise me you won't say anything," I told her firmly. "I swear," she said through grating teeth, "I won't tell anyone that you're a stupid idiot for not wanting any help with this." * * * * * Starting the next day everyone went back to their normal behavior. I was back to being just another guy in the school. I got a curious look here and there but that was it. At first I was relieved at being left alone, but then I realized that without the constant annoyance to keep my mind busy it started thinking again. Were those looks just of curiosity I found myself wondering. After all the creep who had attacked me had spend the day watching me. I didn't know most of those doing it now, maybe my next attacker was hiding among them. It got so bad that by lunch time I was jumping every time someone bumped into, even when Eddy grabbed my arm to pull me out of sight of Billy I pretty much wrenched it out of his hand and backed right into the bully. I got out of that with only a punch to the stomach and my books littering the floor. He must have been busy with something important to just leave it at that. When I told Eddy I was fine after that he didn't believe me. The next day was much the same, I jumped at every noise and worried about the motive of everyone watching me. The only bright note in it was that coach Timberson wasn't on the field when I showed up. Mister Milton was there instead and informed us that the coach had been in a car accident and he'd coach us until the school had found a better replacement. Rumors about the accident ran rampant over the next week. Some said he'd been drunk, that he'd killed a kid, that he'd run off the road to avoid driving over a kitten even that he'd done it to kill himself. * * * * * By the end of the next week I'd managed to convince myself that no one was out to get me, for the moment at least. I still jumped once in a while at loud noises, but I wasn't as obvious about it as before. I found that if I sketched something it made it easier to ignore those feeling so I started drawing in my note books and even in a few of the text books. Most of the sketches revolved around my rescuer so I set about doing a proper drawing of him. The replacement coach arrived in time for my last PE class of the week, and man was he a looker. He was tall and buff. He was wearing track pants and a white t-shirt. It was tight enough that I could make out ever muscles under it. He had dirty blond hair that went down to his shoulders and just a bit of fuzz over his square jaw. "All right everyone, my name's Eric Warner, but you guys can call me Thor," he said casually in his low voice. "I'm going to be your track and field coach for this year. I'm replacing Coach Timberson who was in a car accident." "Man I hope I can get him to use his hammer on me," whispered one of the older girls in the class to her neighbor who nodded in appreciation. I knew what they meant, I wasn't *that* sheltered, I had access to the internet. I didn't want that, but I both hoped for and dreaded that he would shower with the rest of us after class since this was the last class of the day. "Cranford, Mortimer, Jurgen and Kelvin; According to Timberson's notes you four are our best runners. I want you to do a slow mile around the track. Don't push yourself this is just a warm up, a jog will work fine." "What about the rest of us?" someone asked as I headed to the track "Who likes to run?" the coach asked and a few hands came up. "Ok, you can go for a run too." He checked his clipboard. "from what I've read of Timberson's method he expects each of you to excel at everything. That's not the way I do things. We're going to find what you are good at and that's what you will focus on." He kept talking, but I was now to far from him to listen by that point. * * * * * With the start of the next week my paranoia had changed. I wasn't jumping anymore, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched. Multiple times a day I had to fight the desire to look around me to catch whoever it was, but I couldn't stop a few furtive glance here and there, without much success. I wasn't surprise I couldn't find someone spying on me, it was just my mind playing tricks. That lasted the whole week while I was in school. On that Friday I decided to walk to the old mall and back instead of going home for lunch to get a change of air. The mall had been closed for the last few years but security still drove around to prevent bums from taking over. The feeling of being watched followed me there. I had hoped coming here would have given me some peace. I sat on the concrete flower box near the locked up entrance and ate the sandwich mom made me. I was berating myself over having become so paranoid when I was shoved forward. I was so surprised to find myself lying on the pavement that I didn't move. "Come on Kid," a guy said behind me, "get up and show me what you can do." I slowly stood and turned. The first thing that hit me was that he guy was red. He was wearing a one piece jumpsuit that was blood red. His muscled body filled the suit out pretty well. He rushed me and before I could do anything he punched me three times in the chest. I backed up and bent over but managed to remain standing. The guy took a step toward me and I swung at him. I didn't think I just closed my fist and swung, and missed. He punched me in the face and I fell to the ground again. While I was there I had the time to think it was a good thing my fist hadn't connected. I would have hated to see what would have happened to him if it had. "Got to say I expected more out of you," the man said, "they said you killed the guy they sent before me, but I guess he was just a wimp." I looked in the distance and I forced myself on all four. I had to run. If I could get going I'd easily leave him behind. I dug a foot in the ground and tensed. "Oh no you don't." He kicked me in the stomach and I was back on the ground, curled up in a ball. "I got to say this was fun," he said as he knelt next to me, "probably the easiest fifty grand I've ever made." He grabbed my head in his hands. "Just so you don't go to the great beyond wondering, the name of the guy killed you is Sanguine." He turned my head to the left; I could feel him tense his arms. I started to say a prayer, asking for God to look after my parents once I was gone, but the man released me with a curse. I looked up to see him backpedal fast and then someone in a gray trench coat run by. By the time I could sit up they were a dozen feet away from me exchanging blows. The guy's trench coat obscured most of the fight as it flew around him, but what I could see showed that Sanguine knew how to fight but relied mostly on brute force. The other guy's strikes were quick and precise. He hit and moved out of the way before the other guy could strike back. The few times he did get hit he rolled with it and quickly got back on his feet. I saw that he was wearing a black ski mask which left only his eyes exposed. His fighting style felt familiar, but I was too mesmerized to think about it. Trench coat guy did a spin kick to Sanguine's head and he went down one final time. That kick had been more than familiar; I'd seen it practiced three times a week at the dojo. "Are you ok?" he asked as he walked by me to pick up a backpack lying on the ground. 'His' voice was deep, but it sounded forced and the curves I saw didn't belong on a man. I didn't answer, I was too stunned by the realization. She took a rope out of the pack as she went back to Sanguine. I was finally able to get myself to stand and followed her. She knelt and tied the man's legs and arms before pinning a card to his jumpsuit. It was white with the picture of a fist on it. While she was admiring her work I grabbed her mask and pulled it off. "Holy shit," she exclaimed as she stood and faced me. Yeah, now it sounded like her. "What's the big idea? You don't pull off a hero's mask." "What are you doing here Maggie?" I growled. I was angry at her for being here. "What does it look like? I'm saving your sorry ass." "I didn't need your help!" I knew I was lying. "Oh yeah, 'cause you were doing so great when I got here." Het tone went up a notch "I was fine." "So you do have a death wish," she said harshly. "Of course not!" She opened her mouth to say something, but instead grabbed my arm. "We don't want to be here when security drives by," she said as she pulled me along. Once we were far enough under the multi level parking lot she let me go. "What was the big idea not going home for lunch as usual? I was lucky someone saw you head here or I wouldn't have been here in time." "Since when did I have to start checking in with you before doing anything?" See eyed me for several seconds and I started getting nervous under her stare. "Ok, I want to know what the fuck is going on with you," she said in an unusually calm voice. "Nothing's going on," I replied defensively. "Bullshit, you defending yourself." "I told you why, I just froze." "But you don't want to get over that? This isn't like school Jay. There Billy gets bored of pushing you around and moves on to something else. That guy was about to snap your neck. If I'd missed his head with that rock you'd be dead right now. Why do you bother coming to the Dojo if you're not going to use what you learn to defend yourself?" "I don't go there to learn how to fight." "Then why?" "I'm doing it to learn better control." "Control over what? Damn it Jay, You're not making any sense. I'm not saying you have to be some crazed fighter and pick a fight with everyone you meet, but you're good enough that you should be able to take down someone who attacks you." "No," I stated, "I'm not going to fight." "Why?" she pleaded. "Because out here it isn't like at the dojo, things aren't controlled here. If I fight here I don't have the time to think about what I'm doing I'll just react and I might hurt someone." "So WHAT! If someone attacks you, planning on killing you why should it matter if you break a bone of his or two while you're defending yourself." "Arrrg," I grabbed my hair and turned. She didn't understand. I couldn't tell if she didn't want to understand or if this was just beyond her. I looked at the concrete post a few feet from me and I felt my anger rise. She was going to force me to show her what the danger was. With a scream I took the few steps to the post and slammed my fist in it, sending a six inch deep chunk of concrete flying off its corner. I looked at my fist with bits of bloody concrete embedded in the knuckles. I had expected it to hurt more. It had been years since I'd hit anything with all my strength and the pain had been so strong that I hadn't been able to open my hand for an hour. I opened my fist and the bits fell to the ground. The damage to my hand had been worst too. Now she knew I wasn't ordinary. "Oh my god. You're a parahuman." She hugged me. "This is wonderful." "No it isn't." She forced me to turn. "Of course it is, my best friend is a parahuman what could be bad about that?" "Wake up Maggie, ok?" I said with a sigh, "this isn't LA. This is Tyberon, Texas. About the only place more intolerant to Parahuman is New York City." "This place isn't that bad, we have the Shroud after all." "And how much good press has he been getting? The cops are after him, the paper says he's just as bad as the criminals he stops even 'tho he's the only reason we have such a low crime rate." "So? I don't care. I still think it's wonderful that you're a parahuman." I rolled my eyes. "You idolize anyone who's a parahuman. I guess you even Idolize the Terrorist," I said with a teasing smile. "Fuck no. no criminal, parahuman or not, should ever be idolized." "All right," I said raising my hands in surrender, "I'll never bring it up again, and it's wonderful that I'm a parahuman." I lowered my arms and looked at her seriously. "Please don't mention this to anyone. I mean it. This has to remain our secret." "Of course it is," she said as she wrapped her arms around my neck. "Where did you get the trench coat?" I asked once she let go of me. "From the attic, it was my granddad's from when he was in the war. "And what was the card about?" "That was my calling card, every hero needs one." "You're kidding, right?" "No." "You can't play at being a hero Maggie, you don't have any powers." "So, the Shroud doesn't have any powers either." "Of course he does. He can create darkness." "That's just a rumor; it's never been shown that he does that. He just uses his black costume to take advantage of it. That's why he's only active at night. How strong are you?" "I don't know," I said shrugging and happy for the change of subject. It would give me time to think of a way to discourage her to play hero. "I put six hundred pounds on a bar last year, that's all it would take and I was able to lift that a few times without too much trouble." "Anything else I should know?" "I'm pretty fast." "Like SS?" I shook my head. "No, I'm nowhere near as fast as her, I think my maximum speed is about forty miles an hour, and unlike the Scarlet Speedster I accelerate normally." "What else?" "I heal faster, not instantaneous or anything, but by tomorrow night all the bruises from the beating I just got will probably be gone." "And?" "That's it as far as I know." "So strength, speed and healing; not an unusual combination, add to that you know how to fight and you could be a decent hero." "I've already said I'm not fighting. And neither should you, you could get really hurt." "Well, you're not going to stop me. The only way you can keep me safe is to become my side kick." "That's not funny." "Sorry. And just so you know. Until you decide to start defending yourself I'm your personal bodyguard. That means you don't go anywhere without me." "You're joking." "No. I don't plan on losing my best friend just because he's being a scardycat." "You realize that the school is going to notice and start talking, right?" "You realize that a guy your age is expected to have a girlfriend, right?" Only the fact that I knew she wasn't serious stopped me from feeling sick at that thought. Maggie knew how I felt about the subject. "Speaking of school, we should head back before lunch is over. Any chance you can help me redesign my card? I had to make that one from a photo I found on the net." "I'll think about it."
  19. Kindar

    Chapter 01

    Part 1:The day my Childhood ended I was sixteen; it was my first full day as a Junior. It was six AM and I was already running down the stairs. "How many times do I have to tell you not to run in the house Jayson?" my mom said. "Sorry," I replied weakly. I couldn't help it, I ran everywhere I went. I've loved running ever since I could walk; used to drive my parents crazy. I forced myself to walk to the counter and grabbed an apple out of the basket before turning around and heading for the door. "Where do you think you are going young man?" My mom looked up from the stove and pierced me with her steel blue eyes. She was wearing the light green flannel gown dad had given her last Christmas. "To the gym, I want to get some weight lifting in before class." "Not on an empty stomach you're not." "I've got an apple mom." "That's a snack not breakfast." She waved at the table with her spatula. "Now sit down, breakfast's almost ready." I looked at my dad for support. He was reading the newspaper like he did every morning. "Do what your mother says Jay," he said without looking up, "you can spare ten minutes to put some food in you before you exercise." I dropped my backpack by the door and sat down. They were right, but I'd been itching to really workout for the last two weeks, ever since my subscription at the local gym ran out. They only had monthly subscriptions. It took me two weeks to get the money from my job at the fast food joint down the block to pay for one, and it was going to be a waste of money to get a month's worth and only use it for the two weeks left before school. I filled my glass with orange juice from the jug that was already on the table and waited for mom to put the customary scrambled eggs and bacon on our plate. I liked mine sunny side up, but mom and dad liked theirs scrambled, so unless I made them myself scrambled it was. Dad folded his paper and set it aside as mom was sat down. I put my hands together and bowed my head. "We thank you lord," my father said in his deep voice, "for this meal before us, and ask for your blessing as we go through our day. Amen." "Amen," my mom and I repeated. I finished my plate under two minutes. It was rinsed and in the dishwasher before the third was over. I had kissed my mom on the cheek, grabbed my bag, waved to dad and was running out the door in the middle of the fourth. It took me just under ten minutes to run to the school. I could have done it faster, but that would have made me stand out. Before six thirty I was changed in my gym shorts and an old t-shirt and at the bench press. I was the only one there so I threw on a couple hundred pounds of weight and started doing repetitions. I was going for endurance rather than strength so the weights were low. I did three sets of one hundred repetitions. By the time I was done two other guys had arrived, Jud and Billy. They were two years older than I was, but they were Juniors too because of all they grades they had failed. They were bullies and had been picking on me ever since they first noticed me. They noticed me and snorted in my direction. "You'd think he'd have given up by now," Billy whispered to Jud. He said that because even after lifting weights for almost eight years I still looked like a rake. I was five nine and weighted a hundred-thirty pounds on a good day. No matter what I did I just couldn't build muscle, so I'd stopped trying. The two of them have pushed me around and thrown verbal jab at me so much now that I've grown used to them. They were part of what I considered a normal day. Sometime I envied how they looked. Lets face it, they were jocks, plain and simple; bodies built like Hercules and Atlas and the following to prove it. Girls were always following them. The rumours were that by the time school ended last year they had slept with every girl in their grades, including some of the teachers. Maybe that was how they finally managed to graduate because they certainly didn't have much brain upstairs. I went through the machines doing my best to ignore them. They purposely bumped into me twice, making me drop a weight on the second time. More than once I've been tempted to show them how much weight I can actually lift, just to shut them up, maybe scare them into leaving me alone. But that would attract attention so I just did my best to ignore them. I'd gone through all the machines and was going chin ups when Maggie yelled across the room. "Jay! If you don't hurry up you're going to be late for class." I didn't respond to her call and she didn't wait for me. She knew that the reminder was all I needed. Maggie, or Magster as her close friends were allowed to call her, was my best friend. I'd known her for as long as I could remember. She lived across the street and had been sneaking in my house since should could crawl. She was a year younger than I was, but she'd skip ninth grade because she was so smart. Sometime I thought that she was holding herself back just so she could continue looking out for me. She loved science and science fiction. Her bedroom walls were covered with pictures of robots from Japanese cartoon as well as posters of the Justicar team, in its many incarnations. Her favourite of them was Techno, although recently she had started collecting posters of Techknight too. I finished my sets and headed to the locker room. The gym was almost full now and the lockers a frenzy of activity. I quickly showered, and was almost out when someone shouldered me aside. "Fag," he whispered. I looked at him walk away frozen in surprise. I didn't know him, so why had he said that? I watched as he high fived Billy. They had found someone to help them torment me. * * * * * My first class was Biology, it was the only class I had with the Magster. The teacher laid out what he was going to cover over the year. I could already feel the dread forming in my stomach and he hadn't even given us an exam yet. Bio wasn't my thing. Maggie assured me she would help me with it, I could only hope it was going to be enough. "I'll see you at class after school." She said before disappearing in the crowd on her way to her history class. I was heading to the field for Track and Field. Our after school class was Karate, she dragged me to it when she was ten, she'd heard that the Shroud was a master martial artist and decided she was going to become one too. I liked it. It gave me a way to work on my control. Now we both participated in a few tournaments every year. She's won a few trophies while I rarely place higher than fourth. Track and field was run by coach Timberson. He also coached the football team, basketball team, baseball and any other sport taught at the school. The only thing he didn't touch was figure skating, which he left to Mister Milton, the dance teacher. He firmly believed that if you weren't trying to get first place you shouldn't even bother trying. "Not bad Mister Mortimer," he said as I was running in place after the two mile run, "with a time like this you might have a chance at first place, if Miss Cranford and Jurgen were to break their legs." He stared at me with disdain. "You might be happy with third place, but I'm not. I'm not teaching you so you can lose." I sighed with relief when he turned to the rest of the class. "I'm teaching all of you to win. I know the majority of you will never win, and if it was just up to me I wouldn't even bother, but the school says that I have to teach all of you so that's what I'm going to do." Everyone was silent as he looked everyone over. "Now give me two laps around the course." Being talked to like that really made me want to run faster than everyone in class. Place first and shut mister Timberson up. But that would make me stand out. After track and field I had art. On my way there I walked by this creepy older guy. He looked too old for be a student. Maybe he was a new teacher, but the way he kept looking at me made me nervous. I worried that he might follow me, but he just stood there, watching. Only when I turned a corner did I relax. I hoped I wasn't in any of his classes. I wasn't bad at drawing. I wasn't great either, but at least I enjoyed it. There was something about putting lines on paper and transforming them into an image that made sense that felt spiritual, like God was guiding my hand. After that was lunch period. The nice thing about living just over two miles from the school is that I can run home and enjoy a freshly cooked meal instead of whatever passed for food at the cafeteria. "Hi mom, I'm home." "You're just in time sweetie," she replied from the kitchen, "they found it." "What did they find?" I asked as I joined her in the kitchen. "Listen," she said nodding toward the small television set on the counter. She was stirring what smelled like her famous cream of mushroom soup. "Earlier today Randall Salvage pulled into the Pirate Cove marina pulling the Wandering Rose, the boat of the newlywed superhero couple Electrika and Claw. They left on it for their honeymoon a month ago and were expected back two weeks ago." The reporter was silent as the camera panned over the boat. The light was provided by powerful spotlights since the sun wasn't up. "What do you think happened to them?" I asked my mom. "I don't know," she said, studying the screen, "but look at the coral on that hull. It would have taken years for that to build, not one month." My mom might be a house wife, but she wasn't dumb. She mentioned before that she had been considering becoming a scientist before I came along, but that she never regretted her decision to take care of me instead of pursuing her studies. Now she listened and watched science shows throughout the day as she took care of the house. "Tony Randall," the reporter started again when the camera was on him, "an associate of Electrika from the early days of the Justicars has been combing the sea looking for them since they went missing. While Mister Randall declined to comment on his find PCTV was able to contact John Doe, also known as Shape and the only original member of the Justicar still active with the team and he had this to say." The image switched to a picture of a man with brown curly hair. "Patricia and Mark are two of the most capable people I know. Whatever happened to them while they were out at sea I know that they will contact us as soon as they find a way to do so." I studied the photograph as he spoke, trying to see why his image felt so familiar. I'd never seen it up close before. Sure I'd seen him on the news before, but I wasn't the Hero worshiper that the Magster was so I'd never really paid attention before. In the end I couldn't place him and I decided that it was like Maggie had told me before. Shape had build his face from everyone he'd met once his shape shifting ability had stabilized so everyone felt like they knew him. "Where ever they are we send our wished to Electrika and Claw and hope they will return to us safely," the reporter said. Mom turned the television off at that point and served me a bowl of soup with two slice of fresh made bread. My mom's a great cook. I ran back to school as soon as I was done eating. I was hoping to catch Maggie in the cafeteria so I could tell her about the Wandering Rose, it wasn't often I beat her on super hero news. I could hear the banging of metal against metal as I got close to the room where shop class was held. I'd just passed the door when the curse rang. "Holy fucking Gods!" I stopped in my tracks just as I heard something heavy hit the floor. My family had strict rules about swearing. We didn't do it. We didn't speak God's name in vain. But that wasn't why I'd stopped. I'd felt 'something' when I heard it. I took the steps back to the door. It was open and on the far side was a guy with his thumb in his mouth who looked to be my age. He had black hair, was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt. His shoes were also black, as well as the trench coat that was thrown on the back of the chair next to him. He didn't look like a Goth, he didn't have pale skin, makeup or anything, but he certainly looked dark. "Are you ok?" I asked. On the floor was a fairly large sledge hammer and next to him, on the shop's anvil was something long and shiny. "Do I fucking look ok to you?" he snarled before putting his thumb back in his mouth. It looked swelled. "I sorry, I mean . . ." I shut my mouth I was going to ask another stupid question. "I mean is there anything I can do to help?" He glared at me for a moment and then closed his eyes. "No, I'm ok," he said opening his eyes. The anger was gone from them. "It's my own stupid fault for not being careful." He glared at the hammer on the floor. "Where's the teacher?" I looked around among the tools and workbenches. "He isn't here yet. I'm getting an early start on my project." I looked at the guy in black. First day and he already had a project that required him hammering metal? What were they teaching in Shop this year? "You sure you'll be ok?" I asked him. "Yeah yeah, I'll be fine." "Ok then, bye." I headed to the cafeteria to share my news with the Magster. Of course she'd beaten me to it. She'd downloaded they news report on her cell phone. Sometime she's such a techy. I had math after lunch and ran by the creepy guy from the morning again. His hair was brown and cut short, like he was in the army. He was wearing a blue sport jacket with a logo I didn't take the time to look at. He had pleated pants the same color as his jacket and was wearing running shoes. Except for the fact that he made my skin crawl he looked completely normal. Math went well. And then it was history. I was ok at both. I didn't have a third afternoon class to I headed home to start on my studying before karate class. I couldn't believe that on the first day of class they gave us homework. The year was going to suck. I was running by the Patters property when I saw the creepy guy again. He was walking in my direction and I stayed close to the cement wall to give him as much space as possible. I kept my gaze forward, but his eyes never left me as the distance between us closed. I was next to him when his fist came up and hit me in the face. My feet flew out from under me and I was on my back, head ringing louder than the pain in my face. "What a wuss," the man said as I turned on my stomach and tried to stand. His foot connected hard enough that I flew back against the wall. "Enough!" someone else said as I sat up, holding my stomach. I looked up to see who had saved me from this nightmare. Through the tears in my eyes I saw the man had grey hair and wore a beige business suit. The creepy looking one wrenched his arms from the older man's grip and took a step back. "I'm sorry about that," the gray haired man said to me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and when I looked at him again he was pointing a gun at me. "The contract didn't include causing you pain." * * * * * If this had been a comic book I would have pushed the gun away, kicked the guy in the shin, I would have done something. Instead I just stared down the barrel of the gun. I didn't even Pray, I just waited to die. The next thing I knew there was a flash of light in front of me, I was splashed with something and there were screams of pain. When the silence came back there was a man crouching in front of me. "You ok kid?" he asked. I tried to answer him, but my mouth wouldn't work. I was still trying to figure out what had just happen. "You in there?" He snapped his fingers in front of my eyes a few times. "What happened?" I finally said. It wasn't what I wanted to say, but it was the only thing that would come out. My voice was flat, and I couldn't get myself to move. "They tried to kill you, I stopped them." "Why?" I was finally able to move my head so I could look at him. He was wearing a sandy coloured cowboy hat and his hair fell down around his shoulders; it was light copper with darker shades in place. He had deep green eyes. His beard was trimmed short and the colour matched his hair. I wasn't trying to memorize what he looked like but the details were burning themselves in my memory "I owed someone a favor," He replied before getting up. He was wearing a light brown trench coat over a white button up shirt, there was something round and dark under it in the middle of his chest, but I couldn't tell what it was. He had blue jeans on and cowboy boots. I watched him pull a sword out of the creepy man's chest. I also noticed several body parts littering the sidewalk, the hand that was still holding the gun, a leg and a head. I turned away and threw up. Then I started shaking. "Good, you're ok, I was starting to get worried." He wiped the blood off the sword on the beige suit. "What happens now?" I asked, barely able to even hear myself over the sound of my heart beat. "Now you wait for the cops to get here," he cocked his head, "shouldn't be too long now. Tell them what happened don't bother covering anything up, I don't care if they know about me. I'm not going to be back here anytime soon." "You're leaving?" "Yep, my part of the bargain's fulfilled." As he put the sword to his hip the air behind him started shimmering blue. "What if more of them show up?" I couldn't stop myself from looking around. "Oh, more will come for you, but not today. These two worked alone." "What am I suppose to do?" "Not my problem," he said as he stepped through the shimmer and disappeared. I brought my knees to my chest and held them tightly as I heard the police siren in the distance. * * * * * "Jayson?" my mom asked as she pushed police men aside to run to me. "What happened to you?" She hugged me and I held on to her as tears started running down my face. "Your son was attacked and according to the story he told us some cowboy showed up and rescued him." "It isn't a story," I said softly in my mother's shoulders, "he was dressed like a cowboy but he had a sword instead of a gun. Then he vanished in a blue light." "Listen here son, that's pretty unlikely, no one around here can do that." My mom glared at the officer and he took a step back. "My son does *NOT* lie." "Great," the man said after a moment of silence, "another parahuman dumping bodies on the street, just what he need. Like the Shroud wasn't enough." "Can I go home?" I asked my mom. She looked at the officer. "We have his statement and contact information, if we need anything else we'll contact you. The paramedics looked at him and couldn't find anything more than a few bruises, but they'd like him to get checked out at the hospital." "I just want to go home." "Then we'll go home. I called your father and he should be there by then." * * * * * After assuring my dad I was ok I went straight to my bed and curled up under the cover. Why did someone want me dead? I was just a kid. I hadn't done anything to get someone that mad at me. I Prayed to get some sort of answer, but nothing came. At some point I heard my dad talking with Maggie. She wanted to see me, to make sure I was ok, but he wouldn't let her in. he told her that I needed to rest after what I had been through. I didn't think he was right, I didn't think I could rest. The questions wouldn't stop. But eventually I did fall asleep. Thankfully it was a dark sleep without dreams.
  20. Kindar

    Chapter 18

    Chapter 18 She's standing in the doorway, on the other side of the room, looking around at her defeated people on the floor. The disappointment is clear on her face as she steps into the room. Six women in heavy armor follow her in and place themselves three on each side. They're holding high caliber rifles. My stomach cramps and I lean against the wall. "What have you done to me?" "I've poisoned you. All the weapons were coated with a cyanide derivative. It's worthless against demons, but quite effective against you. I expect you'll be dead rather soon." I have no trouble believing her. My insides feel like they are on fire and my stomach keeps churning painfully. "I'm surprised he hasn't killed you, let along that he accompanied you all the way down here. What exactly are you going to do with our soul stones?" "They are not yours," Claws growls. Amanda gasps and I look up. "You can talk? There were two...?" She glares at me. "You told me you killed him." I smile. "I lied." the look of disbelief on her face makes me laugh, then I double over in pain. It takes a moment to regain my breath. "You should be pleased," I gasp. "I followed your example." My stomach contorts itself, and I throw up. for a moment I can't move, so I have no choice to look at the sickly green goo streaked with black stuff spreading on the floor. I wipe my mouth on the sleeve of my trench coat and use the wall to help me stand. My limbs are shaking, I feel weak, but somehow, I also feel better. "That's disgusting." Amanda looks up at me, and I smile again. "Now. You're going to give me my stones back and we're going to end the both of you quick and painlessly." Claws growls and his fingers extend into long claws. "I don't think so," I reply, my voice steady. "We're leaving, and anyone who stands in our way ends up like them." I indicate the bodies on the floor. She frowns. "How come you're looking better?" I shrug and lifts my hand up, extending the darkness to make it more visible. "It might have something to do with this." "Kill..." But Claws' already next to them, and three of the women go flying through the broken wall. one of the other aims at me and I put my hand over my face, extending the darkness to cover my upper chest and hardening it as much as I can. The bullet impact send me back against the wall, and my hand hurts, but it stopped. I peek over my shield. Claws as punched the other three to the ground and he's stalking Amanda, who is backing toward me. I shake my hand, and the darkness melts back in. I push myself off the wall and walk to her. Before she realizes I'm there I punch her across the jaw. She crumples to the floor and I walk over her. "You are leaving her like this?" I look over my shoulder and shrug. "I'm not killing her." then I add. "Neither are you." "She has hurt you, she should pay." "Without the stones, she can't do anything. That's going to hurt her enough." I leave the room and Claws follows me. "She should hurt more, for what she did." "I don't care. She isn't going to do anything to me anymore, that's all I care about." I make my way to the stairs, go up to floors and exit. "Is there a way outside here?" Claws asks. "No. There's a cafeteria. I'm famished. However I managed not to die from that poison, it's taken it out of me." I follow my nose to it. There's always someone there to cook, since people work her around the clock. I go in and the half dozen people eating look up at me, then gasp as Claws follows me in. I head to the counter and I hear the others scramble out of their chairs and out of the room. "Do you want something to eat?" I ask Claws. The demon watches the cook run out the opposing end of the counter and then out of the room. He shakes his head. "I am not hungry." I go around the counter and rummage through the fridge and throw four steaks on the cook top and they sizzle. I add a few herbs to them and eat them as soon as they are done, accompanying them with two cokes and various vegetables. Once I'm done I sigh in satisfaction and I clean my plate and bowl. Claws looks at me with a puzzled expression. "You eat like a human." "It's the only way I know how to eat. I've never felt the urge to chase humans and eat them." He nods, then looks at the door. I hear them too. I smile. "I guess it's time we left." * * * * * We're walking down the road. Claws says that following it will take us out of the city. We left broken bodies after broken bodies in our wake as we left headquarter. We didn't encounter Jason, and I'm disappointed. I would have liked to give him a piece of my mind about what he put me through. The night is cool, and dark. Clouds hide the moon. Claws again looks like a human with a hood covering his head so the few people we walk by don't pay us any attention. When the sky begins to lighten so does the density of the houses. Once the sun is above the horizon, there are only a few houses in the distance around us. Claws stops. "My people are in that direction." He points in perpendicular to the road. "How far?" "If I run, I will reach them by the time the sun sets." I nod. He looks at me. "You should come with me." I chuckle. "And do what? I'm not like you." "Part of you is." "And the other part is human." "If you don't come with me, what will you do?" I look down the road. "I'll follow the road. See where it leads." "It leads to another city." "Then that's where I'll go. Maybe I can see if I can be human." "You aren't human." I shrug. "If I can pass as human then." "Will you continue hunting my kind?" I think it over then sigh. "I can't let them kill humans, so I may have to." "You don't owe humans anything. You don't need to protect them." "It's all I know." "Come with me Derick. We can show you another way." The use of my name surprises me and his red eyes are pleading. I shake my head and start walking. "I hope you have a good trip home Claws in the Darkness." I can feel his eyes on me for a long time. When I don't anymore I look over my shoulder and I can't see him. I set my gaze ahead and wonder what that new city will be like.
  21. Kindar

    Chapter 17

    Chapter 17 I follow him in and immediately I feel pain at my shoulder. I duck the next sword to slice at me and punch the woman holding it. I don't hold back and she goes flying into two others. I see the gun pointed at me and throw myself to the floor. I roll, stand, punch the man who is next to me and slip behind him, holding him up. He takes the bullets meant for me. I take the sword at his belt before pushing him away. His vest will have taken the worse of the hits. I unfold the sword and swing for the gunman's hand. It doesn't fall off. The sword is shorter than mine. I don't have time to think about that, he's aiming at me. I move out of the way, catching Claws out of the corner of my eye fighting four of them. The motion takes me in range of another guard. He swings at me. I block the strike with my sword, but feel pain in my side. The gunman grazed me. The room's too crowded. I can't use my speed to good effect here, there's always someone within striking distance. I grab the swordman's arm, pull him at me and send him flying at the gun man. Someone else pulls out a gun and I throw my sword at her, as hard as I can so it will go through her vest. She goes down grasping her shoulder. I don't have the time to worry about her getting back up. Three guards run at me sword drawn. I'm faster so I reach the first one before he's ready. I grab his sword out of his hand and punch him in the face. I slice at the other forcing him back, but the third closes in. He's only human so we exchange a few strikes and then I'm holding his sword. I slice his leg open, turn and slice at the other one, who thought he was going to catch me unaware. He loses his sword before he realizes it, along with a few fingers. I break his knee, he falls down and I kick him across the face. he's out of the fight I swing at the closest person, but she ducks under, stands and slashes my right arm. The cut isn't deep, but it hurts, the pain makes me drop the sword. She presses her advantage, I dodge and parry, moving back. We're getting closer to where Claws is fighting. I catch motion out of the corner of my eye and move just in time to avoid being run through. The sword bites in my side instead. I hiss and back hands the man. I feel the darkness shift and harden just before I connect and his jaw breaks. I punch the woman, but she jumps back. She slashes at me, I parry. I attack, she dodges. She's the one moving back now. I risk a look around, and she uses the opportunity to come at me. I have no choice but to jump sideways. She saw it coming and I find myself with a line of red across my stomach. Fortunately, it isn't deep, even if it stings. It was worth it. It's only her against me, everyone else that's combat ready is focusing on Claws. Without having to worry about an attack from the back I can focus on her fully, and I need it. She is good. Her movements are precise, she doesn't waste any energy. We circle each other. I don't recognize her. As good as she is, I should have trained with her. Amanda had me train with the best people she had. At least, that's what she told me. Another lie. We exchange blows and step back, circling again. We can't be evenly matched. It doesn't matter how good she is, I have better reflexes, more strength. I should be able to take the sword out of her hand, after all she's only human. We attack, and I feel the sting on my leg before we back off each other. I haven't cut her yet. Something is going on. I've fought demons who didn't hurt me as much as she has. Can it be the silver? It's only supposed to inhibit demonic healing, not weaken them. At least I don't recall them growing noticeably weaker as I fought them. Or is this something different? Something specifically for me? Was Amanda prepared for me to turn against her? Did she arm her people accordingly? I barely parry her attack. Something is definitely wrong with me. She can't be moving faster than me. I have to do something before she scores a hit that puts me down. I grit my teeth. I hate doing this. I hate having to rely on that part of me. I attack her, she parries. she strikes back, a swing from the side. Instead of parrying, or dodging, I catch the blade in my right hand. The darkness is as hard as I can make it, but I still feel it cut in my skin. I swing at her with the pummel of my sword and she jumps back. Unfortunately for her, she lands inside Claws' reach, and he backhands her across the room. I want to lie down, close my eyes and sleep for a long time. I've never felt this tired in my short life. I force my eyes to stay open. I stumble to the closest person and take his gun. Claws is still fighting against seven. I aim at the furthest one. I use half the clip before I hit him in the leg. I try to aim at another one, but they all move too fast. They are blurs and the gun is too heavy for me to keep it up. I find a wall and lean against it, just to catch my breath. The next thing I know someone shakes me. I try to aim the gun, but I'm not holding it anymore. I'm lying on the floor. "You are alive, good." The voice is deep and too loud. It takes effort, but I open my eyes. Claws looks down at me. I look around bodies little the floor. For a moment, I worry they're all dead, but I can see they're breathing, and then I hear the moans. And not only mine as I push myself sitting. I look Claw over, he's cut and bleeding. "How are you fairing?" "I am hurt, but not so badly that I can't finish what I came here to do." He goes to the center of the room, grab one of the cylinders and pulls it out of the column. "Wait!" Claws turns to look at me, cylinder in hand. I stare at him, expecting something to happen, and then remember. "Never mind. She lied about that." He studies the cylinder, and then just breaks it in two. He tips the halves and the stone falls out in his hand. He holds it gingerly and then places it in a fold of his darkness. "What's this?" Claws asks, indicating one of the ends. "That's the date when the soul stone was collected." He looks at the column. "Did you collect all of them?" "No. I only started a little more than a year ago. Forty or so, the rest was collected by the previous hunt.... I don't know where the others are from." There are close to seventy soul stones in the column, and now I do wonder how they got them. How are other cities protected from demons? "Claws, do demons attack other cities?" "Of course." He pulls cylinder after cylinder out, breaking then, collecting the stone and dropping the casing to the floor. "Humans are crowding out all the wild, not just the one close to this city." I nod to myself. How are they protecting themselves then? Large groups of humans? I look at the unconscious bodies littering the room. Could humans really manage it? I'm shaken awake again. "We can leave now." I nod and force myself to standing. I take a step and tip over. Claws catch me before I hit the floor. "I might need help getting out of here." He smells me. "You've been poisoned. It isn't silver." "I'll be okay." "I wouldn't be so sure about that," Amanda says.
  22. Kindar

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 15 I never thought about it before, but this road is always busy. The sidewalk isn't crowded, but even this late there a lot of people walking about. I stand to the side of the entrance to the Golden Pint and watch them. I watch them, and I find myself wondering why they are out at this hour. They are well dressed, so they might be heading for some entertainment. Jason mentioned at one point about the theaters and movies. Something else I don't understand. If they want to escape the lives they are in, why don't them simply escape? What does sitting in a dark room with other people, watching someone do the things they dream of, get them? I join the crowd and walk along with them, heading away from headquarter. I see him on the next block. He's leaning against the wall in a beam of light. The walkers don't pay attention to him, but it's obvious to me who he is. I wonder what he thinks of them, for not realizing they are walking by a demon. I stop in front of him. "I thought you were leaving the city." He looks up at me, his hood hiding his red glowing eyes from anyone not looking straight in. "I was." "Then what are you doing here?" "I was worried about you." He moves away from the wall and walks away, in the direction I was going in. I think about heading in the opposite direction, just because I can tell he wants me to walk with him. A quick sprint puts me next to him. I want to know why he's worried about me. "So?" He doesn't turn his head; his shoulders are hunched. "I made it six blocks, then I thought about where you were going. What they might do to you. I know you're good, but I thought you could use some backup. I followed you far enough away you couldn't tell. I'm surprised they didn't do anything." I shrug. "So, you sent Juliette in the bar after me?" "No, I had nothing to do with that." "How did she know I was there then?" "She lives a few building away. Maybe she saw you there talking with that woman." I don't reply. I hadn't considered she might live close by, even if we shop at the same grocery store. In the distance, I see the red and blue flashing lights of a police car, then the sirens. It's getting closer. Amanda said she was going to led the demons deal with me, but she can influence the police. She's had to do it a few times when I started hunting and they weren't familiar with me. They might be looking for me now. I duck in an alley, and Claw follows me. He's a demon, and I should be annoyed at him, but I find his presence comforting. I don't know where I'm going. If Claw knows, he isn't commenting. We cross streets and roads, going from alley to alley, following their winding path. My mind focuses on the ground before me. I try to think about something, anything, but I don't know what there is to think about, so my mind remains numb. At least until I hear something break above us. Something large and heavy, followed by smaller sounds. A brick chimney has toppled over. I look up and I don't see anyone, or anything. Claw growls lightly. I turn to ask him what he noticed, but before I can talk I hear demons landing in front of us. I count six of them. only a little light reaches us from the street, and it illuminates the one in front, taller than me, muscular, the darkness, his skin, ripping over him, and the two immediately behind him. They are a little shorter and not as large, their skin doesn't do anything, almost as if cowed. All I can see of the other three are the eyes. The odds are certainly not in my favor. Even if I was armed, I've never gone up against six. Except for the time Claw saved my life, it's always been one on one. I clench my fists, and the constant throbbing in my arm quiets down. Even with Claw's help, I am not surviving this, but I am going to make them hurt. We're all immobile for a moment, then Claw roars. Windows shatter, and I go down to a knee, covering my ears. I see one of the demon run off before I have to close my eyes, trying to block out what is assaulting me. My ears hurt from the volume, but that isn't what brought me down. That roar is filling me with fear, terror, a desperate need to be as far from here as possible. It's taking all my concentration not to get up and start running blindly. Silence falls on the alley, but it takes me a moment to realize it, even then the ringing in my ears is deafening. I open my eyes in time to see another demon flee, scrambling up the wall. I only make three left, and two are looking nervous. The only one who doesn't show any signs the roar affected him is their leader. I look over my shoulder. Claw is twice as large as when he was walking with me, in height and width. He's bigger than when he fought me. His skin is moving on him angrily. The leader growls, Claw growls back. It takes me a moment to realize the growls aren't even, they modulate, drop and raise in pitch. They are talking, and while I don't understand the language, I can sense the intent. Claw demands obedience. The other is defiant. Claw's tone changes and there's pleading in it now. The reply is pride and arrogance. Claw commands, the other disrespects. Claw sighs, and before I realize it was an actual sigh, and not the tone of what he said, the other one has jumped over me to tackle Claw. I take a step back so I won't be hit by a stray claw, and I keep an eye on the other two. They are focused on the fight, not me, and don't look to want to move. The fight isn't long. By the time I look to them again Claw has his arm wrapped around his opponent's neck tight enough he isn't moving except for breathing. Claw implores him. The other replies with anger. With a scream of anguish Claw separates the other's head from his body. The body crumbles at his feet. He looks at it, then at the other two. Even though it isn't directed at me, the rage in those eyes make me step back. The other two scamper away. Claw breathe heavily, his gaze goes over me, but he doesn't acknowledge my presence. He puts the head on the ground, then rips it open. He digs through the goo and pulls out the soul stone. He looks at the corpse and sighs. I see sadness in his eyes. I look away when he licks the stone clean, to avoid throwing up. When the sound stops, I look back. He's holding it gingerly, gazing at it. "What's the big deal?" He glares at me. "I had to kill him!" "So?" In the next moment, he has me against the wall forearm pressing in my throat, not hard enough to prevent me from breathing, but I can tell his anger is real. "He was mine," He growls, then he is searching, starting to speak, then stopping a few times. "He was my child," he finally says. "Then bring him back." He looks at me in shock, then glares. "What do you mean?" "You have that." I nod at the stone in his hand. "So, bring him back." He releases me. He studies me as I rub my throat. "What do you think this is?" He shows me the stone. "It's his soul stone. His life force, or spirit, or whatever you call the stuff that makes you live." He looks at me for a moment, then he laughs. It isn't a pleasant sound. "Life? this is what you think this is?" His says once he's done laughing. He cradles the stone. "This forms as we die. This contains our memories, our accomplishments, who we were." "Okay, it's just like I said." He looks at me. The anger is gone from his eyes, I think that what I see there is pity. "We don't come back. We aren't mystical, death is as final for us as it is for humans. When I get back home I will light a fire, and throw this in it, so it will burn and be carried to the first one." "What do you mean, you don't come back? if you don't why have I been collecting the soul stones from all my kills?" Dread forms in the pit of my stomach as I remember the video I watched. The soul stone in the container, being hit by lightning and vaporized. I'm wrenched out of my thought when Claw pushes me against the wall again. "How many?" he growls. "Forty or so." "Take me to them."
  23. Kindar

    Chapter 16

    Chapter 16 I stare at him for a moment. "Are you crazy? We can't go there." "I will not leave what remains of my brethren in their possession." "You were worried about what they were going to do to me when all I wanted to do was talk with Amanda. what do you think they are actually going to do if we walk in there?" "I don't care what they attempt to do to stop me. They are only human." "Humans armed with silver weapons." "You think I fear silver?" "Shouldn't you? I know it hurts you." "Only if they can touch me." "They have guns." "Are they anywhere near as good as you?" "Of course not." "Then i don't see how they are going to be a problem. I disarmed you easily enough." "It won't be that easy if you try it again. And it's not just about he weapons they have, there's a lot of them. It isn't going to be easy." "They've never gone up against me." "I've fought enough of your kind to know what to expect. I'm telling you. You don't stand a chance." "You have only fought our young, and while they were driven crazy with hunger. You and they have never fought one of use who is well past being ruled by hunger. They certainly have not gone up against anyone like me. Let them attack me, I will tear them limb from limb." "No, Absolutely not! If we do that, there will be no killing." "We?" I sigh. "Yes, we. I can't just give you directions. I'll go with you, but you can't kill any of them." "Why are you still seeking to protect them?" "Because they're humans. I was made to protect them." "They lied about why they made you." "It's still all I know! If you expect me to turn my back on them just because some of them lied, you are wrong." "They are not worth your protection." "You don't get to decide that," I growl. "This isn't negotiable. If I take you to the soul stones, no one dies." He looks at me, his gaze unreadable. "Very well. I will not kill anyone, but I make no promises on how little, or how much I will hurt them." I shrug. "I get that. I doubt I'm going to be able to fully restrain myself. Let get moving, someone's bound to have called the police after the roaring you did." * * * * * "How are we getting in?" Claw asks. We're standing in the shadows, looking at the entryway, at the two guards standing there. "This is the only unlocked entrance. The garage can only be opened by someone inside. There are doors around the building, like the one I got out by, but those are going to be locked." He looks at me. "How do locked doors stop you?" "I don't have the access card for them." He keeps looking at me. "What?" "I've felt how hard you can punch. Why don't you just punch a hole in the door, maybe rip it off. That's what I do." "I can't do that. that's..." I'm about to say that's where I live, but that isn't true, not anymore. "I never thought about it. I haven't had to force my way into a building before. I guess we can go in by the door I used. It's on that side." We take the long way around to get to the side of the building, using more alleys and rooftops. The only way I can tell which of the three doors along the wall is the one I used is the smell of exhaust from Juliette's van by it. The door doesn't have a handle. So I try to pry my fingers around the lip of the door, but there isn't any space. Suddenly I realize I do have purchase on it, and pull. The door creeks and bends away from the frame, which allows me to see the fingers of my right hand. The black nails are extended and flattened. With a curse I let go of the door and take a step back. I shake my hand, trying to fling the stuff off. I don't have a knife to cut it off so I look around for something sharp. Claws grabs my wrist, forcing me to stop moving. "Let go of me, I have to get that off." "There is nothing on you. It's your skin, reacting to what you need." "I need that stuff off!" Claws looks at me, with what I think is annoyance. "Calm yourself. It is your skin, not some alien part attacking you." I wrench my arm out. "That's easy for you to say." I point to him. At the darkness at the fringe of his 'clothing' acting like frayed strands caught in the wind. "You're probably having fun making yourself looking like someone dressed in tattered clothing." I notice the still flattened tip of my fingers and cradle my hand in my arm, where I can;t see it. Claws looks down at himself, and the frayed darkness still. "No, That isn't me doing anything. It's my concentration wavering." His outline became defined again. "In the wild, I don't need to concentrate on my form. It changes and flows according to my need. Keeping myself looking like this for so long is taxing." "But there's something inside, right? Bones, blood? I've cut demons so I know you bleed." "This is my skin, not the whole of who I am." he points to my cradled arm, the tip of his finger extending into a long claw. "Just like that is your skin. You need to accept it." "I didn't ask for it." "None the less, it is yours. Refusing to accept that simply means you will not use it." "I've never needed that before." Claws grips the edge of the door and rips it off the frame. "And yet, you do now." Grumbling I follow him inside. It's late, so it's not surprising the hallways are empty. I lead Claws to the elevator at the back of the building. It's used primarily for large items and there won't be any guard there at this hour. My fingers hovers over the call button. "Is something wrong?" "This isn't a good idea." "I don't care, I want what's mine." I shake my head. "No, not that. Taking the elevator. Amanda can control them. We're better off taking the stairs." "Where are they?" "Down this way." I lead him to the east stairs and we go down. The door to the fifth sub basement opened as we're next to it. A guard stares at me and Claws for a moment before going for his gun. Claws is faster than I am. He wraps a large hand over the guard's gun hand as he'd pulling it out of the holster. I hear the bones break. The guard screams in pain. And Claws throws him against the wall. More bones break and I rush next to the guard to make sure he's still alive. "Don't do that again," I tell Claws as I stand. "He's alive." "You Shattered his hand and broke his collarbone." "He would have attacked us." "He wouldn't have been able to do anything against us. You didn't have to hurt him like that." Claws' gaze pierced me. "Derick, he is just a human." "No! he isn't just human. He's a person. He deserves to live and not be in pain. You're fast enough immobilize him. we can tie them up." "I did warn you I would hurt them." "Not him. Not people who can't even defend themselves against you. If we're attacked by trained fighters, one of the support group, fine. But you are not going to just hurt people wantonly." "You are being unreasonable." "No. I'm being perfectly reasonable. You said you're in control, unlike the ones I've fought in the city, the young ones. Well you're going to prove have to it." "Fine. I won't hurt anyone who doesn't pose a threat to me. I guess that means I won't hurt anyone at all." "I'm okay with that." I handcuff the guard's hands and continue down. The eighth level is quiet. I hear the whirs of computer fans from the closest labs. "They're stored in the containment room, on the other side of the building." We're halfway when Valerie opens a door and almost walks into me. She jumps back in surprise and almost drops the apple she's holding. He chews quickly and swallows. I move my right arm behind my back. "Derick, they told us you'd left." "I... left something here. I'm just getting it." "Maybe I should tell Amanda you're here." "You don't have to disturb her. It's rather late. I'll just be a moment." Her eyes grow wide. She drops the apple and reach behind her back. I can guess what she just saw. I grab her left wrist as she raises the gun and push her against the wall. She winces and she hits it. "Sorry," I say. I look over my shoulder. Claws is in the doorway. His scent if all over me. I can't tell when he's moving about anymore. I look back at Valerie and she's looking at my hand. "Oh my God. When did that happen?" "Earlier." "When? Under what conditions?" "It doesn't matter. Valerie, I'm going to have to tie you up." "Of course it matters. I'd theorized that you'd show some demonic aspects, I've always wondered what you didn't. I have to know what the catalysts was." I stare at her. "You know what was done to me?" "Of course I do. I've been working on the project with Amanda from the start." "Didn't it ever occur to tell me about it?" "That wasn't my decision to make. Not that I would have told you anyway. I've seen what happens when once one of you knows what he is." She looks from me to Claws. "Well, this. You always switch sides." One of me? Right, in the video Jason says I'm the fourth attempt. I curse under my breath. Did anyone else know? did they all know? I remember some of the anger in the voice of my support teams when talking about me. I hadn't thought anything of it before, but did they know? Valerie gasps in pain and I release her. Her wrist is covered with small lacerations. The darkness on the palm of my hand is formed in small blades. I was angry, I wanted to hurt her and the darkness responded. "I didn't want this," I tell her. She looks at me with fear. "Is this going to take long?" Claws asks from the door. "No." I grab one of the cords from behind a computer and rip it out. I pull her hands behind her back, none too gently and tie them. "If you think that thing is your friend," Valerie says, "you're deluded. It's using you." "Seems to me everyone is." "Derick, you don't have to leave. We can help you. You're not the first one to manifests demonic traits." "Why don't you stop lying." "I'm not lying, Derick. The others didn't have the control you have, but we learned a lot form them. We can learn even more form you." "Don't you mean from my body?" "No. if you cooperates nothing has to happen to you." "I don't believe you." "I'm telling you the truth." I push her down behind the desk. "I don't care." I push Claws aside as I leave the lab and close the door. "Are you going to leave her like that?" "Yes." "What if she gets free?" "I don't care." "She might alert the others we're here." "I don't care." But that's a lie. I do care. I hope she tells Amanda I'm here. I'm angry and I want to hit someone. I can feel the darkness on my arm shift about, flow and harden. I want to make someone pay for what I'm going through. We reach the containment room and I see I am going to be able to do just that. There's a large window next to the door showing me the thirty or so people in the room, surrounding the containment unit. They're armed and armored. Their rifles move up to aim at us. "Why aren't they firing?" Claws asks. "The window is bullet proof. They don't want to waste their bullets. Claws, what I said about not hurting them, you can forget about it. These people deserve the pain." Claws doesn't say anything. He runs through the window. It isn't demon proof.
  24. Kindar

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 12 I don't have time to wonder what she's doing here. I can hear footsteps behind the exit. I step in the small van and she slides the door close behind me. I sit down on the floor. "Are you bleeding?" she asks as she sits behind the wheel. She looks at me over her shoulder. "Oh my God, you are bleeding." The van starts moving. I shift about and then reach under me to pull out something. It's a small plush animal. Holding it I look at the back of the van. there are bench seats there, and things piled up on them. A small plastic truck, large and thin books, a reproduction of a woman in a white gown. What are those things? I should ask Juliette about them, and how she came to be here, but I'm suddenly very tired, so I rest my head back against the side and close my eyes. I think I'm going to sleep, but all I can do is think over the video I watched. What they did to him. I open my eyes with a start. What they did to me! I look at my arm, and suddenly I know why it's throbbing. "It's in me." "What did you say?" "It's in me." I start clawing at my right forearm. "I need to get it out." Juliette says something, but I'm not paying attention to her. The van waves about for a moment, making me hit the bench and wince in pain, but I don't stop scratching my arm. I have to get it out of me. I can't be like them. I ignore the pain as my nails dig in the skin harder and harder, eventually drawing blood, The wounds close as fast as I cause them. "no, no, no." I claw harder. I try to rip chunks out, but my skin's too tough. I have to get at it. "Derick!" I look up. I realize she's been talking for a while now, and has called my name a few times. She's holding a thermos behind her seat. "Take this and drink the content." "What's in it?" "Just take it. It's going to help you." "It's going to take it out?" "Sure. yeah, it will." I grab the thermos and almost rip the top off and then swallow the content in hungry gulps. It tastes horrible, but I don't care. I'll endure anything to get rid of the demon dust inside me. I put it down and sigh in relief. "How long will it take to work?" I look at the back of her head. She has her cell phone to her ear. She becomes fuzzy, and my eyelids are heavy. I try to call to her, but while my mouth opens, the sounds that come out aren't coherent. I try to move, but my limbs are so heavy. I eye the thermos. She said it would help me. She lied. * * * * * There's a strange scent tickling my nose. My arm throbs. I try to scratch it, but I can't move my other arm. I can't move either arms. It takes a lot of effort, but I manage to open my eyes. The rags over my wound is gone, as is the duct tape. In its place there's some sort of paste, as does the wound on my shoulder. I'm sitting on a metal chair. My arms are secured to the arm rest with some sort of leathery rope. My legs are restrained too. I look up and around. I'm in a large room. There isn't much light here, but I can see it's daytime by the window at the far end. "Good, you're awake." Of course he's here. I don't know why I didn't realize his scent was in the air until he spoke. "I thought you'd left the city." He steps in my field of view, twenty feet away. "I did. I went to the woods on the outskirt. I was going to wait for you there, but you found yourself in trouble, so I came back." "How did you know about that?" "Someone inside the building called me." I stare at him. Someone betrayed us? There's someone working with a demon inside? I have to tell Amanda.... What am I thinking? "You sent Juliette." "I did." Or course he did. I shouldn't be surprised, that's one more person who lied to me, except. "No, that's can't be right. I didn't smell demonic taint on her at any time." "That's because I've kept my distance from her." He produced a cell phone. "That's how I talk to her, and anything I need to give her goes through enough intermediary to mask my scent." I didn't realize that could be done, but then again, he's the first really smart demon I've encountered. "What's this stuff on my shoulder and stomach." "It's a healing poultice. It's drawing out the silver in the wound." Silver? Why did it interfere with my healing? No! I pull at my bound. I need to get out of here. "You won't break out. That's tendrope. It can't be broken, just cut." I try to tilt the chair to the side, but it doesn't move at all. It's bolted to the floor I see when I look to the side. I don't know what kind of metal it's made of, but it's solid. I finally give up, panting heavily. "What did Juliette have me drink?" "A sleeping draught. I gave it to her in case I needed to insist you meet me, but when she called me saying you were clawing at yourself I told her to get you to drink it. I didn't know how well you could heal." "I was trying to get it out." I realize how stupid that sound. It isn't an object I can find and take out of me. It's probably spread through my entire body. "Get what out?" "The soul stone dust Amanda injected in me." He watches me for a moment then nods. "That explains the scent." "What scent?" "Your scent is similar to ours." "No it isn't. I can tell Demon scent, and I don't smell like you at all." A smile crawls on his muzzle. "You probably can't smell your own scent. Most of our youngs can't either. It's the reason I came here. That I came looking for you. One of our young who made it back to us had your scent on him. I needed to confirm you were one of us." "I am not like you! I'm not a monster!" He barks laughter. "You're monster alright." He walks toward me. "But make no mistake. It isn't what they put in you that made you a monster." He's in my face. "You were a monster before that. Humans are the monsters. The part of us that is in you only made you a stronger one." "No! I fought to protect people!" "You murdered my young!" I pull at my right arm and it rips free. I grab him by the throat before he can react and I squeeze. "I was protecting my people," I growl. He's chocking. He tries to pull my hand away, but he can't. I'm too strong for him. My hand is clutched tightly on his neck... my black hand. I let go of him and stare at my hand. The blackness ripples on it, and there's a fin on my forearm. I look at the arm rest, and the leather rope is on the floor, cut. "Get it off, Get if off! I shake my arm trying to fling it away. My other arm is still tied and by reflex I slash the rope with the fin. The pain is intense as I cut the rope and my flesh, but I don't care. I need to get out of here, I need to find a way to get that thing off me. My legs are still so I bend down to cut the ropes there. "Stop." He grabs my arm. "Let go of me! I need to cut myself free." "You're hurting yourself." "I don't care!" "I do." I see concern in his eyes, tenderness. "You need to calm yourself." He brings my hand up so I have no choice to look at it. I notice he's bleeding. There's multiple fins now, cutting into his hand. "This isn't something on you. It is you. You're afraid, so you try to protect yourself. You need to get control of yourself so your flesh will quiet itself." I can feel calm flowing through where he's holding me. It isn't forcing me calmer, but it's encouraging it. My breathing slows, and after a moment my forearm smooths out. The blackness remains. He reaches down and cuts my legs free. "Why is this happening to me now? There's never been and blackness on me before." "I don't know. Our skin reacts to how we feel. The youths can't control it at all. It flows and sharpens depending on their moods. But you're not like us, so I can't know why now." "I need you to take it away." "I can't, and even if I could, I wouldn't. This is you." "No. You don't get it. I can't have this. I'm not a monster!" He looks at me and I see disappointment in his eyes. "You're no more a monster than I am, or that humans are." I scoff. "For all your talk, I've seen what demons do here. Not just the hunting. They work with humans to do even worse things." "What do you expect? Not all our youths who manage to stay alive here until the hunger becomes manageable come back to us. Many stay here, with no one to teach them our ways. So they learn from what they see humans do. They see them scheme together, lie, steal and kill for power. That's all they end up knowing." I look at my hand. "Then why did you say I was a monster?" "I was trying to get you angry. I thought you were hiding your skin. I wanted you to show it to me, to confirm my suspicion. I didn't realize you weren't aware of it." "You can cut off my arm." "What?" He looks at me with horror. "Haven't you listened to what I said? This is you." "No, it isn't. I'm not this. I'm..." "What? human?" "I was," I whisper, finding that my anger evaporates. "If you were, you aren't anymore." This isn't fair. I didn't ask for any of it. "What time is it?" "It's the afternoon. Close to the midpoint between the son's zenith and the sun setting." I nod. "I have to go." "Why?" "I need to go talk to Amanda." "What could you have to say to her? She tried to kill you." "I know!" I stand. "I don't care. I have questions for her." "She will lie to you." "Maybe. I still have to ask them." I turn and see a table next to the door. On it is something. A trench coat I discover when I pick it up--my Trench coat. It's dirty and cut in a few places. It's the one I wore three weeks ago. I threw it out because it had been too damaged. "Where did you get this?" "Someone found it in the garbage and I took it." "Why?" He doesn't say anything, just shrugs. I put it on and put my hand in the pockets. There's a pair of glove in them. I guess I forgot to take them out. I look at my black hand, and put a glove on it. "Derick, please don't go." "Go back to where you came from. You don't belong here, and what I do isn't any concern of yours." I leave. "You're wrong," he whispers as the door closes.
  25. Kindar

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 What Am I doing? Amanda isn't abandoning me. For that to happen she'd have to care about me. I need to get out, so the first thing is to take out this sword. I'm surprised at how much more painful it is removing it than it was when she put it through me. I manage to pull myself up by using one of the mainframe columns, but I can't move for a moment to pain is so strong. I can't stay here. Amanda has just tried to kill me. She's gone to get someone to do the job properly. I walk to the door holding my stomach; my shirt is red from the blood. I've never bled this much before. In the corridor there's no one. Good. It's the middle of the night, while there's someone from security around at all time, I know the few on duty like taking it easy at night. But I don't have long. I hold on to the wall as I walk, leaving bloody hand prints to make my trail. I know hardy anything about taking care of wounds, but I know I need to stop the bleeding. I make it to my destination; fortunately the supply closet is never locked. I get in and close the door behind me. Once the light is on I search though the shelves. I need something to apply pressure on the wounds. I find a stack of clean rags. That'll do. There's a roll of duct tape, I'll use that to hold the makeshift pressure pads in place. I take off my shirt and look at the wound. It's a clean slit through which the blood is flowing. I can't see any signs it started healing. Why isn't it healing? I get a long strip of tape ready and grab half the rags. I apply them to the wound and wrap the tape around my body. I do the same for the exit wound. Then I add layers after layers of tape to make sure it will stay in place. I don't feel any better, but at least I'm not dripping blood anymore. I wash my hands and arms in the large sink at the back of the closet. I listen at the door before exiting. No sound in the corridor. I stay alert for the sounds around me as I head to the elevator. The only way out of the building is on the ground floor. No one is waiting for me, and the doors open as soon as I call it. No one inside. good. I lean against the wall to catch my breath as it goes up. Why am I so out of breath? I've run for hours without feeling this bad. The elevator jerks to a stop. I press on the ground floor button a few times, but nothing happens. "Really Derick?" Amanda's voice comes from the ceiling. "You take the elevator? I guess demons are so straight forward you never learned to plan ahead for traps. Don't worry; I'm going to have someone there in no time at all." I don't know what she means, except that I don't want to be here when the people she's sending arrive. I force my fingers in the crack between the doors and pull on them as hard as I can. Only to double over as the pain in my stomach flairs. Okay. I have to be more careful. Whatever she did to me is affecting more than just the stomach. More gently I pull the door apart, the pain increases a little in doing that, and I'm left panting and sweating. I'm between floors, but there's enough of a gap for to pull myself through. It takes a me a moment to catch my breath and then I pull myself up, ignoring the pain until I'm out of the elevator, then I curl up in a ball for a long minute. I don't want to get up, but I hear a door open in the distance, and from the way the footsteps echo I can tell it's the stairwell. I can't tell how many men are coming, but I can't be on the floor when they get here. With groans of pain I get up and start walking. They're in front of me, getting closer, but I have to get going. If I can't use the elevators, the stairs are my only other option. I have three floors to go until I can escape. I turn a corner just as they turn the one at the other end. they raise their machine guns and I duck back. They don't fire, but I hear the safeties come off. They aren't moving for the moment. I lean back against the wall and rub my arm. It's still throbbing. Can I take them on? Sure, even in my current state, they're only human. But I have to be able to reach them first. Somehow I'm not healing, so a hail of bullets will stop me. "Jensen, Magingson," A man whispers. It's probably the one in charge of the group. "Go back, there's an office that has a door on the other corridor, take it and get him from behind." Two set of footstep move away. It's good to know about the way to get behind them. "Derick," the man calls out. "I don't know what's going on, but just turn yourself in and we can resolve this." I chuckle. "No thank you. I saw the weapons you're holding. I'm going to stay right here for the moment." I try to run for the intersection behind me, but my wound won't let me, so I walk there as fast as I can. "We won't shoot you. We just want to bring you in. I'm sure whatever you did isn't that bad." I ignore him and focus on listening for the footsteps. yes, I heard them, getting closer. They stop just before the turn, and I prepare myself. The muzzle of the rifle appears. I grab it and lift it. I step in front of the man holding it and hit him in the face with as much strength as I can muster. It isn't as much as normal, but he still goes down. Before she can react I use the rifle as a club and she goes down too. I check to make sure they are both still alive before taking out the handguns at their belts. I go the way they came, and find the open door they used. I can see the other door so I go there as quietly as I can, which is a lot quieter than they were moving. "Jensen," the man whispers, "Are you in position?" I peak in the hall and there are four of them with their back to me. The one in front has a radio to his mouth. "Jensen, come back." I step out and throw the gun at his head. Then cross the distance using the butt of the other gun to knock them out before they even realize I'm here. I check as I catch my breath, and they are alive. Good. I don't want to kill any of them. No matter what lies I've been told, they are still humans. I take the radio, and head for the stairs. "Amanda, are you listening?" "So you've killed them." "No, they are just unconscious. I don't intend to kill anyone you send to stop me from leaving, but I'm hurt and I'm having trouble focusing, so I can't be sure I'll be able to pull my punches." "Why are you telling me this?" "Because I think you should just let me go." "That isn't going to happen. You're my property, and there's too much I can learn from dissecting your body. The next one I make will be better. I'm sure Jason will come up with a cute name for that one too." I enter the stairwell and go up. "So you don't care how many people might die trying to stop me?" "They're expendable." "You told me I was made to protect humans. Was that a lie?" "Of course it was. I can't believe how naive you truly are. You're an experiment. If you'd been successful, I'd make more and the lot of you would wipe the demons off the face of the world. We'd finally be rid of those things." Two floors to go. "Then why send me out to protect humans?" "That was Jason's idea, a way to validate your existence to yourself. He gave you moral center and a mission to go with it. I thought it was ludicrous, but it did have the advantage of pitting you against actual demons. It let me find out what your limits are." One more floor to go. "The news?" She takes a moment to reply. "Oh, that, another creation of Jason. let's you think there are other out there like you, creates a sense of community, of belonging." "He was right. I really though I belonged. I was happy to protect the humans, to help make the world a safer place." I put my hand against the bar. "Except I wasn't was I?" "Sure you were. every demon you killed made the world a safer place." I push the bar hard and I throw myself to floor. Bullets fly about me. I feel something burn my shoulder as I roll and stand with a grunt. I punch the woman before me, catch her before she falls and move behind her. Her body jerks in my hold as multiple bullets hit her. I back away, using her corpse as a shield until I reach an intersection. There's no one is in so I drop her and walk as fast as I can. Something wet flows down my left arm. I have a bullet hole in it. I can't let that stop me. Once I'm out and I've found a place to hide I can deal with my injuries. I'm on the south west side of the building. The garage is on the north side, but there's no point going there. I can't drive and Amanda has to be expecting me to go there. There's an emergency exit somewhere around here. I remember seeing it in my exploration of the building. I just have to find it before they catch up to me, or run out of strength. My stomach is now numb rather than painful, so that's good, but my feet feel heavier than before. I see the exit sign at the end of the hall. and I try to hurry. I'm almost out. I'm almost free. Two woman in uniform appear at the junction where the door is and look in my direction. Surprise register on their face and they go for their guns. They don't have rifles and that's what saves me. By the time they pull their guns out I've reach them and knocked them out. I push on the door, and it doesn't budge. I put my shoulder into it but it resists me. With a cry of frustration I take a step back and kick it open. As a result I almost black out from the pain, but I manage to force myself forward. I lean against the open door trying to decide which direction to go in when a small while van turns the corner and comes to a stop before me. The sliding door opens and a woman motions for me to come in. "Get in. We have to get out of here." It takes me a moment to realize who she is. "Juliette?"
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